iOS Consumers Tend to Put Their Money Where Their Mouths Are

iOS Consumers Tend to Put Their Money Where Their Mouths AreA few comments have been posted to an article I recently wrote about a product that is targeted to Apple device consumers. Most of the comments — in fact, 75 percent of the comments posted at the time I’m composing this sentence — are inquiring about whether or not the product I wrote about is going to be made available to Android device users.

My response to one of the commenters included the following assertion: “iPhone/iPad users are more likely to pony up for stuff they want. It’s a generalization, I know — but too many Android users want stuff for free/close to free. iOS consumers tend to put their money where their mouths are.”

I have long desired to own an Android device, and earlier this year I was finally able to afford one, a vastly discounted Samsung device offered by a prepaid carrier. I purchased the device at Best Buy for $50 at a time when the manufacturer’s suggested retail price was well over $100. It was one of those fortunate moments when the stars aligned in my favor; for months I had been watching Fatwallet.com and other deal monitoring sites in the hopes that such a deal would make an appearance. When it did, I jumped on the occasion.

This was my first experience with an Android device, and I must say I was at first thrilled with it. Though the device was somewhat lacking in the specs department, I salivated over the opportunity to finally be able to discover what everyone had been talking about since the first Android-powered device was released in 2008.

Yet I soon found that my new phone was severely incapable of being able to do what I most wanted to do: install apps. I mean, the device was loaded with the prepaid carrier’s apps, including Facebook and Twitter and a few more of the universally accepted necessities. But I was unable to add more than a few more apps without quickly running out of internal storage. Within a month, I decide to delve into the world of Android modding in order to see if I could modify my phone just so that it would be able to run more apps.

Eventually, after much exploring and deciphering of the somewhat esoteric Android modding community, I found a developer who was willing to develop a ROM that would render my device usable. And though at least one of my co-contributors here at LockerGnome finds it awesome but unimportant to be able to root your Android device, I’ve found the ability to root my device to be an absolute necessity in my being able to enjoy using my phone. Today, the Android phone is in a state that I far better appreciate than it had been when I first brought it home from Best Buy.

And yet the device, due to its low specs, is still only capable of running an outdated version of Android. Though I find Gingerbread (Android 2.3.6) capable enough for my current needs (for the most part), I’m finding myself unwilling to purchase apps for the device. For one thing, many of the apps I’ve installed on the device lack the quality I’ve found in their equivalent apps developed for the iOS platform. For another, though I’ve invested some money into the device, such as an extended battery and a larger microSD card in order to enable the device to perform better than it at first did, I’m finding the device still doesn’t quite match the quality of the iOS device that I recently purchased from somebody off of Craigslist, a 4th generation iPod touch that came equipped with far more storage and memory than the inexpensive Android device I’d been hoping would rock my world.

There are some incredible Android devices on the market, but I speak from the point of view of someone who cannot afford the latest and most expensive ones of the bunch. Certainly I would love to sport a Nexus 4 or a Galaxy S III, but those devices are far out of my budget. The iPod touch, though having some flaws of its own, I acquired for $100 and have since purchased approximately $50 worth of apps to install to the device. As for the Android device, I have spent precisely $0 (zero dollars) for apps to install on the phone.

I believe that iOS consumers are far more likely to spend their money on apps for their iPads and iPhones (and iPod touches). I am far from alone in this opinion. This is, I believe, because the typical iOS consumer has more disposable income than the vast majority of mobile device consumers. They can afford to purchase apps that owners, such as myself, of less expensive devices can afford to purchase. In addition, there is a perception that iOS apps are of superior quality than their Android counterparts. Earlier this year, when the developers of Instagram finally released an Android version of their remarkably popular iOS photo sharing app, an immediate and overwhelming criticism was made — mostly from iOS consumers, its seems — that the quality of the Android version of the app was of lesser quality. Whether or not the complaints were warranted or not, I don’t know. (I hadn’t yet tested Instagram on an iOS device at the time the Android version was released.)

There are iOS apps, of course, developed by Apple itself that are far from maintaining the standard of quality that the company is known for. But most apps must undergo a strict vetting process before they are allowed to be sold through Apple’s App Store, and this further reinforces consumers’ perception that iOS apps are of a higher quality. iOS consumers often purchase Apple products due to this perception, whether valid or not, and are more willing to pay for apps to further enhance their iPhones or iPads.

This is not intended to be an insult to consumers of low-cost Android devices (which would in fact be an insult to myself); it’s simply a view that I strongly hold, having now had considerable experience using both devices. (I’ve also participated in beta testing of another Android device since my initial purchase, and found myself even less willing to purchase apps for the device due to its lacking in certain very key areas.) Perhaps, once I have more experience with higher-quality Android devices, my views will change. I’d certainly like to see some of my favorite apps, such as Bossjock Studio, one day make their way to the Android side. But I’m not going to be complaining about it until it’s perfected its app on iOS devices, and I’m certainly not going to pretend I’d pay good money for an Android app that almost certainly wouldn’t be capable of performing well on the device I currently own.

Are you willing to put your money where your mouth is? Would you pay good money for an Android version of an app that currently is exclusively being developed for iOS devices? Would you, for example, buy GarageBand or iTunes or iMovie or FaceTime for Android? If there was an app for surviving the apocalypse, would you download it only if it was free?

Image provided by someecards.

Model Rocketry – Fun, Cheap, and Geeky

Model Rocketry - Fun, Cheap, and Geeky

Model Rocketry - Fun, Cheap, and GeekyWhen I was about 12 or 13, my brother introduced me to his favorite hobby, model rocketry. I remember very clearly the first day we went out and bought a model rocket kit. The cardboard tubes, stickers, and fins looked unimpressive and at the time I didn’t think it was possible to launch something so unassuming in to the sky. To my pleasant surprise, I was completely wrong.

Flying a model rocket is a relatively cheap hobby considering kits that include a rocket, launch pad, controller, and supplies can be found for as low as $25.00. Supplies for each additional launch after that typically runs about $2-3. Stand-alone rocket prices range from $8 to $50 and up, depending on what kind of rocket you’re looking for. Some rockets even include digital cameras that allow you to take aerial photos.

Model rocketry has been around for ages and has been credited as one of the major inspirations for children who eventually go on to become scientists and engineers. Building and launching model rockets can teach propulsion, physics, and other important principles of science and mathematics.

As a hobby, it is safe and widespread thanks to companies such as Estes, which manufactures safe and reliable rocket components. In the interest of safety, G. Henry Stein and Vernon Estes have developed the NAR Model Rocket Safety Codes, which are used around the world as the rocketer’s creed.

A model rocket is powered by a small engine that is housed by a lower chamber within the rocket. A tiny igniter and plug are inserted in the bottom of the engine prior to launch allowing the pilot to attach two clips that provide a positive and negative charge to the igniter. Once the rocket is ready for launch, the pilot inserts a safety key in the ignition controller, which completes a circuit between the controller and the rocket. With the press of a button, a small electrical current is sent through the ignition system causing a spark that ignites the engine’s black powder, causing enough pressure for the rocket to achieve liftoff. At this point, the rocket is sent 350-1000 feet in the air. There are some larger rocket and engine models that can reach at much as 10,000 feet, but these are typically more expensive.

Model Rocketry - Fun, Cheap, and GeekyOnce the rocket has reached altitude, one of six recovery systems kick in, allowing the rocket to return to earth safely without reaching ballistic trajectory. The most common recovery method uses a parachute and/or streamer to slow the descent. This method includes a built-in failsafe by ejecting the nose cone away from the body in addition to deploying the parachute. This creates drag by killing the aerodynamic qualities of the design. While this may not save the rocket from being damaged when it reaches the ground, it will prevent it from falling fast enough to become dangerous.

Model rocketry is a fun, educational, cheap, and safe hobby, as long as basic safety precautions are taken. Through building and launching model rockets, children and even adults can learn important fundamental principles of science and mathematics that will stay with them for a lifetime.

Get started with your own model rocket setup here!

How I Pay $7 Per Month on Unlimited Mobile Phone Service

If there is one expense that absolutely dominates the modern household monthly with seemingly oppressive rates and ridiculous added charges, it’s the mobile bill. Every month, my family spends somewhere in the neighborhood of $200 for phone service on four phones. This is coupled with our internet bill which creates a total monthly investment of around $270.

Lately, an IT associate of mine purchased my iPod touch (4th gen) from me and immediately converted it into a mobile phone. He explained his philosophy that he doesn’t use his phone while driving, and everywhere he frequents (work, home, coffee bar) has Wi-Fi. With this in mind, Skype and other VoIP systems with approved apps on the Apple App Store give him the ability to make and receive calls just like a regular phone 90% of the time. He isn’t chained to a required data plan or a set number of minutes that he can only use to call people within the U.S. He’s free to call anyone in the continent and even the world for just a few dollars more.

There are some critical drawbacks to this decision. You don’t have emergency services available to you at all times, and your phone stops working the instant you cross out of range of a Wi-Fi hotspot. Calls can often be broken up and distorted if the Wi-Fi connection isn’t strong enough. Skype has also had its share of problems in the recent past. An outage a few months ago left its non-business users without phone service for nearly an entire day. These are some critical issues to consider before taking a leap without an alternative line of communication at your disposal.

Following suit, as the Frugal Geek is supposed to in the face of a real deal, I immediately took my $2.90 monthly Skype Out plan and upgraded it to Skype In for $12.05 / 3 months. This means that my monthly total comes out to roughly $6.90. If everyone on my plan followed suit, which they probably won’t, I could reduce a $200 monthly charge down to a reasonable $27.60. Not only that, but this enables you to make and receive calls from your desktop, laptop or notebook, iPad, iPod touch, Android Tablet, etc.

Skype, or any similar service, is not intended to be a replacement for your phone service as lack of a way to make emergency calls is a critical drawback. While this likely isn’t going to be a preferred solution for everyone, the extra phone line can come in handy especially when you’ve misplaced your primary phone and have to make and/or receive a call.

How Audacity Could be Better

Audacity is a free and open source alternative to programs like Adobe Audition and Garage Band. For a lot of budding podcasters and content creators, it’s the tool most commonly recommended for audio recording and editing. While Audacity has quite a lot of functionality in the editing realm, there are a few improvements that would really help push this program further.

While writing this I’m sure the obvious comment would be that if something is free, what place does anyone have complaining about it? My point in this article is simply to outline a few key points that, in my opinion, have been keeping this application from being a cornerstone example of open source triumph. Audacity could very well be one of those examples of the open source community creating something better than their expensive corporate counterparts.

Keep Multi-Track Recording a Priority
Recording from multiple sources at once is exactly why many content creators opt to spend the big bucks on programs like Adobe Audition, Pro Tools, and more. The one thing these big-budget programs have that Audacity really doesn’t here is the ability to record audio from multiple sources at the same time without requiring the user to have a multi-track mixer and/or input device. If I had to choose between buying an input device and supported microphones and dropping roughly the same amount of scratch on a piece of software that allows me to do the same thing with standard USB devices, I’m going to opt for the software.

Give Up the Clunky Interface
For some reason, many open source programs have an unappealing default interface. Buttons are big and clunky, and the toolbar looks crowded and confusing. Even a seasoned professional can have a hard time figuring out exactly what the various knobs and sliders littering the top of the window are there for. Expensive programs look worthwhile to the average consumer because they have an interface that is polished and appealing. Some of the clunk can be stowed away in menus with little to no negative effect on user experience.

Include Publishing Tools
Another suggestion would be scripting in a publishing option that sends a recording out as a podcast.  Currently, you have to use a separate program such as PodOMatic to smoothly convert raw audio in to a published podcast. If Audacity had this function integrated in to its core, it would instantly become a much more powerful alternative to the majority of similar programs. Garage Band isn’t just popular because it’s included with new Mac systems. It became extremely powerful partly because it makes publishing a podcast very easy.

While I understand that these issues are likely resolved by add-ons and plug-ins the open source community have put together, integrating these changes in to the base program would make it a much more viable alternative. If there is one thing the open source community really needs it’s that one killer app that does what it does better than the competition in the eyes of everyday users.

Two Budget Audio Setups

Audio is the most important thing to get right no matter what kind of multimedia content you are producing. If you’re doing a live show with a camera pointed at you, a pre-recorded audio podcast, or even machinima, poor audio is the one thing your audience will have a hard time forgiving. Even if your visual content is outstanding and your bumper music flawless, the majority of your audience will appreciate and positively respond to quality audio.

No matter what operating system you use, your sound is directly impacted by your hardware and software choices. Analog audio running through a PC’s integrated audio card microphone jack has so much going against it that it’s almost impossible to get broadcast-quality results. An audio card is faced with static caused by traffic going through the board and various buses, pops and cracks from slight jack movements during recording and more. The absolute best first step towards making a positive difference in your audio is getting off analog connections and using digital hardware.

USB 2.0 and firewire both work very well with digital audio interfaces. Some of them can be very complex, which is one of my next topics, but today we’re going to cover two setups that require a minimum investment with great results.

Below are two audio setups that I have put together and used on a personal level. These rigs are designed to work both on Mac and PC.

1. Economy Basic – $25
This setup is intended for a broadcaster on a tight budget. While your results may not impress a professional sound engineer, they will get the job done and keep your program on budget. As an example, I’d recommend this setup to a high school or college student doing commentary over a game of Call of Duty for posting on YouTube.

The Logitech 350 is a solid and clear option for anyone wanting to achieve good audio without dropping a lot of cash. Because the mic is so close to your mouth, it’s important to remember to keep it out of your line of breath. In other words, if you put your finger against the mic and breathe out through both your mouth and nose, you shouldn’t feel it. If you do, move it away slightly to avoid having puffing noises on your recording.

Audacity is a free quick-and-dirty audio recording software that lets you do some noise cancellation and compression on your audio to make it have more of that radio broadcaster sound. It’s important to give 10 seconds of silent recording with the mic on before you start speaking to allow the noise cancellation to work properly. Remember, audacity is only going to be a benefit to you in post-production.

2. Economy Premium – $65
This package gives you a great clear sound without the need to wear a USB headset. It’s a bit pricier than the basic, though the addition of a condensor mic allows you to have a more powerful vocal presence in your recordings. Below are two options of USB condensor microphones, each with its own pros and cons.

If you’re not a fan of the Snowball design, as they can be quite bulky, Samson makes a very good USB condensor microphone called the “C01u” and a higher level version named “C03u“. Their microphones are solid and very clear, though their level of support doesn’t quite have as stellar a reputation as Blue in terms of keeping their drivers and software up to date on various operating systems.

I’m a big fan of this setup, and have used it myself (with the Samson option) for several years to do web-based radio. Not having to have a tiny microphone in front of my mouth has also been a benefit when I need to clear my throat. I recommend strongly getting a pop filter if you’re not comfortable talking to the microphones from a 45 degree angle and keeping it slightly to the side.

Having good audio can be the difference between a dead audience and a growing one.

Beat Hazard Review

Take a really versatile and colorful music visualizer and mix it with a game that acts a lot like Asteroids and you have Beat Hazard. Beat Hazard is an indie game with a price hovering around US $5 on Steam and in the Xbox 360 store.

Music is the centerpiece for the game as your power increases with the intensity of the track played. Visual effects also flash across the screen with slamming notes, all making the experience fuse very seamlessly with your listening experience. Sound effects are few though they seem very well places when they hit. Music is provided but can be pulled from a local folder on your hard drive. The provided tracks are very good.

Graphics are an area where Beat Hazard shows off its true nature. Warnings are given for anyone that is prone to seizures especially during the Hardcore game modes where the flashes of light and color can actually be a distracting influence on gameplay. The graphics tend to give you a headache after a while especially when your music has a fast tempo.

SEE THE VIDEO REVIEW HERE

Beat Hazard has three difficulty modes (Easy, Normal and Hardcore) and each one presents a very different experience as you attempt to make it through the song. Controls are simple and easy to pick up and understand. Power ups and bonuses are available as you destroy asteroids and enemies. Some of the more effective powerups include a volume increase for the music playing in the background. The louder and more intense your music is, the more powerful your guns.

This is quite literally Asteroids with a music visualizer plugged in to create something a lot less blah. Between Beat Hazard and Geometry Wars, I’d have to hand it to Beat Hazard for creating something that adds a lot of eye-candy to the classic genre. Geometry Wars may give you less of a headache.

How To Be Geeky On A Shoestring Budget

There should be an image here!Like many college students, I don’t have much money. However, I do have plenty of geeky toys. I learned very early on to make do with what I had, but that didn’t mean that I had to suffer and do without. Here’s how I achieved my current geek setup without going over budget.

Arguably, one of the most important components to any geek setup is a good desk. However, you do not need to save money by buying a little hutch. All you need is a little ingenuity. I bought two $30 desks from Walmart and placed them together to achieve a $60 L-shaped desk.

There should be an image here!

As you can see, I have three computers, so I needed the space that an L-shaped desk provides. How did I afford three computers on a low budget?

First off, the laptop on the left is a loaner. The MSI Wind netbook in the center was only around $250. I bought my Dell Inspiron on the right when I got my first student loans. Even so, I only paid around $600 for it. The big monitor that it’s running on is actually a Polaroid 19″ HDTV. Since it has all sorts of hookups on the back including VGA, I’ve saved money by not buying a television and a monitor. I both work and entertain myself at my desk. You can get a similar HDTV for around $250 these days.

One thing that is not shown in the picture is my iPod touch. 8GB models are now $199. I cannot afford cell phone service, so I text with Google Voice on my iPod touch wherever I can find a Wi-Fi hotspot.

So with a bit of time and ingenuity, I’ve achieved a great geek setup.

Are you a geek on a budget? If so, how did you achieve your current setup?

Daniel W. Webb has been self-publishing content on the Internet for over a decade. He’s written articles for a tech oriented site as well as contributed to an anthology book. He is currently majoring in communications and will soon minor in technology.

Grocery Shoppers Who Try Harder To Track Costs Do Worse

There should be an image here!Almost one in three U.S. households shop on a budget — and one in six can only afford basic necessities. So it’s no wonder that 78 percent of budget shoppers — twice as many as those who shop without a budget (37 percent) — try to track how much their groceries are likely to cost as they roll through the aisles.

But the harder they try, the worse they do — overspending by as much as 19 percent, according to a new study, which was conducted by a Cornell professor and colleagues and is published in this month’s Journal of Marketing.

In general, the researchers found that all consumers tend to underestimate how much their groceries are going to cost.

“But those who try to calculate the exact total price almost always do worse than those who just estimate approximate prices,” said Brian Wansink, Cornell’s John S. Dyson Professor of Marketing, who co-authored the series of studies with Koert van Ittersum of the Georgia Institute of Technology and Joost M.E. Pennings of Maastricht University, the Netherlands. Their work included two field studies and two laboratory studies.

It is low-income shoppers who try most to calculate, rather than estimate, Wansink said.

That means that those on the tightest budgets — those most motivated to track their spending — may be at greatest risk for spending more than their budget allows, said Wansink, forcing them to cut back in other areas, which “could cause shoppers unexpected financial distress.” This chain of events can also cause these shoppers to develop negative feelings toward the store they patronize because they spent more than they planned.

The researchers also found that the most accurate shoppers based their estimates on the dominant range of price endings in their baskets — such as the 99 cents in $4.99. In other words, if the price endings of most of the grocers are between $.50 and $.99, people rounded up to the nearest dollar. “When people don’t round up, it leads to some unpleasant surprises at the cash register,” said van Ittersum.

Wansink suggests that the retailers might help consumers estimate the cost of their groceries with cart scanners, by changing their price-setting strategies or by providing shopper trainings in the principles of decision making, statistics, and mental computation.

In the meantime, the researchers offer these tips:

Round each item to the nearest dollar — $2.25 becomes $2 and $5.50 becomes $6.

If you lose track, estimate the total number of items, then guess the price of the average item and multiply them together.

If you really want to calculate the exact total price, use a calculator.

Tom Rushmer @ Cornell Food and Brand Lab

[Photo above by Fabio Venni / CC BY-ND 2.0]

[awsbullet:Bob Barker Price is Right]

Just In Time For The Holidays!

Hey, are you into saving money? I am not talking about being cheap mind you, rather making every cent count? Then take a look at some coupon sites that I have put together for you…

DealNews– Offering a site-wide RSS feed with auto-discovery for Firefox/IE 7 users. Add some of the better coupon mentions that I have seen lately and you have yourself a very handy shopping resource. Good stuff all around.

eCoupons– Good deals, awful UI. These folks also offer us a RSS feed, however they neglect to add it to the header for auto-discovery for use with our favorite browsers.

CouponFirst– Slightly better UI, RSS w/auto-discovery, plus some rather tasty savings opportunities as well. A good resource when looking to spend a little extra cash on that next geeky item. I would however, like to see clearer categories.

Lockergnome’s Coupons– You had to see this coming, right? ;) Seriously, we do have some fairly juicy deals ourselves. Offering RSS with auto-discovery and stores offered in alphabetical order. My only gripe, I would like to see collapsible menus instead of the long list. Maybe even a teaser list so that we can see what is offered without needing to click the title?  Short of that, we are doing nicely here I think.

Did I miss some sweet coupon websites? Then feel free to share them with me via the instructions below.

Have comments? Want to share feedback? Email me at [email protected]. Note that, by clicking on that link, the subject defaults to “feedback.” Changing this subject will cause POPFile to quarantine your message and I will never see it – so please don’t!
[tags]coupons, saving money, frugal, RSS[/tags]