Phablet: Can My Nexus 7 Be Used as One?

Jordan asks about turning a Nexus 7 tablet into a phablet:

Lately it seems as if my Droid Bionic’s screen is just too small for my needs. Although it was my first Android device and will always have a special place in my heart, it’s just not working its magic on me anymore. I recently received a 16 GB Google Nexus 7 and I absolutely love it. Could I use it as my only mobile device? I already do everything else on it like watch videos and movies and play games, but what I also want is for my tablet to act as my phone. The Nexus 7 is small enough to carry around in my pocket, but the problem I run into is trying to connect it to a mobile network. Any tips on how to turn my Nexus into a so-called phablet?

Phablet: Can My Nexus 7 Be Used as One?Thanks for your question, Jordan! There has been a great deal of discussion about this new device category, the phablet, which is essentially a hybrid of a smartphone and a tablet. According to many tech pundits, this year is expected to the Year of the Phablet, and the Consumer Electronics Show gave us the year’s first real taste of phablet fever.

The Nexus 7 as a Phablet

I believe the Nexus 7 has the potential to be used as a phablet. At 7 inches, it’s just small enough to be toted around, though many will still find it far too big to be carried around in a pocket. We were recently asked whether it was necessary to have separate data plans when you have both a smartphone and a tablet; in your case, you might consider yourself lucky, because you won’t have to be making that decision.

I recommend trying a variety of communication applications with your Nexus 7 in order to turn it into a phablet. Skype is perhaps the most well-known example of voice over Internet Protocol, or VoIP, applications, but there are countless others available for you to try. Using Google Hangouts on Google+ is another great way to communicate, especially when you want to communicate with more than one person at the same time using your phablet.

Inexpensive Data Plans Are Available for Phablets

If you don’t have a data plan yet, the Nexus 7 uses a micro SIM card, and you have a variety of wireless carriers from which to choose. You don’t always have to go with one of the self-professed Big Kahunas of the wireless world; you can have your Nexus’ SIM activated on a prepaid carrier such as SIMPLE Mobile quite inexpensively. SIMPLE Mobile runs on T-Mobile’s network, but may offer better personal support for about the same cost as going with T-Mobile itself.

Regardless of which carrier you go with, once you have a data plan in place, you can get a free mobile phone number through services like Pinger, which enable talking and texting over your data plan for free. Some folks prefer using a simple service like this to others like Skype and Google Hangouts, since they tend to require less data and are potentially more reliable. (Potentially, I say, but not necessarily.) If you don’t have a data plan, try a few of these services using your Wi-Fi connection to see which service you prefer.

More tablets are going to be used as phablets as consumers are trying to save money or those who prefer larger displays buy the devices. I’ve used most of the major devices and services available, but I’m sure there are a few out there I haven’t tried yet (or haven’t even heard of), so I’m looking forward to hearing from others about how they’re using their tablets as phablets. What services have you found to work well in converting your Nexus 7 or other tablet into a phablet?

Image from Amazon

How to Build Your Own Smartphone Battery Backup

How to Build Your Own Smartphone Battery BackupThis is an interesting project for those do-it-yourself people who like to tinker. It seems that all of us have become victims of buying everything already made and we no longer get our hands dirty to either built a PC, or in this case, to build a smartphone battery backup. Let me just say this: if you have never built yourself a desktop PC, you don’t know what you are missing. I have built hundreds of computers for myself, my family, and for clients, which has always left me with a feeling of satisfaction when the job was completed.

Similarly, building your own smartphone battery backup system is a project that you can do for yourself or share with another family member. I would classify the knowledge needed to complete this project as moderately easy, but your tech expertise will decide just how easy — or difficult — the project will be.

First, let’s start with some of the parts you will need to begin.

The battery is the heart of a smartphone battery backup system. One would think that a car battery could serve as a battery backup, but this is not the case; car batteries expel gases during the charging process, and no one wants that inside of their homes. One battery I’d recommend is one that is designed to be used in a marine environment, produces no deadly gases, and is leak proof. One such battery for use in a battery backup system is sold at Amazon and is called the Optima 8014-045-FFP YellowTop Group 34/78 Deep Cycle Battery. The battery sells for about $185.

A wall charger is needed that will keep the battery fully charged and is compatible with a marine type battery. Amazon has such a charger and it is priced at $25. Schumacher SC-600A SpeedCharge High Frequency Battery Charger.

To complete our project, we will also need a battery clip-on cigarette lighter adapter that connects to the battery. The Roadpro 12V Battery Clip-On and Cigarette Lighter Adapter at only $5 meets this need.

Finally, you will need to purchase a USB car charger like this one: Griffin Powerjolt Dual Universal USB Micro (priced at $5), plus a volt meter of some type to measure the power remaining in your battery; the Equus 3721 Battery and Charging System Monitor meets this need at $15.

Once you have the parts all rounded up, just follow these directions to set up your charging system.

  • The first thing you have to do is connect the wall charger to the battery. Make sure you use the correct connections, which are marked on the battery pole. Red to plus and black to minus. Let the system charge for six to eight hours.
  • Once the battery is fully charged, it is now time to check to see if your phone can be charged. Attach the cigarette lighter adapter to the battery with the same connections (red to plus and black to minus) as above.
  • Plug in your USB cable to the phone adapter and you should see the charging indicator on your phone pop into action.

The amount of times you can charge your phone will depend on how much power your phone uses during normal operation. However, using this type of battery backup will provide more charging power than the simple backups that may charge a smartphone as few as three times.

How do you keep your smartphone working when the power is out?

Comments, as always, are welcome.


CC licensed Flickr photo above shared by IntelFreePress

Will Colorful Snap-on Covers Be Enough to Save the Windows Phone?

Will Colorful Snap on Covers Be Enough to Save the Windows Phone?One of the more humorous articles we have presented here at LockerGnome was a piece that was written by Candice Shane entitled My Life as a Windows Phone Pariah. In the article, Candice provided her take on why she personally likes the Windows Phone 7 and even takes on the subject as personal “warfare” against those who feverishly proclaim that the only real cellphones on the market either feature the Apple iOS or Google’s Android operating system. Her passion runs deep as she describes her love affair with her Windows Phone 7 and why she chose the simplicity of a tile-based operating system:

I looked at it for the first time and I fell in love completely because here it was, a phone that finally didn’t want to be smarter than me.

Though what Candice wrote has plenty of merit and I believe her passion warrants consideration, the unfortunate fact remains that Apple and Google control the smartphone marketplace. Though we may soon see thermonuclear war between the two distinct and separate companies, we consumers couldn’t care less. The recent Apple vs. Samsung lawsuit, counter-lawsuit, appeals, more appeals, and so forth mean very little to a consumer who just wants to buy a phone that works properly.

Nokia is about to introduce a new Windows Phone, the Lumia 620, scheduled for release in January of 2013. The biggest claim to fame for this newest Windows Phone is that it will feature snap-on transparent cases in a variety of colors. The features are what one could expect from an inexpensive phone, and it is designed for the budget-minded consumer. There is nothing wrong with this approach, but I recently wrote another article comparing the Sony Xperia to the Samsung phone I own. Both Sony and Samsung support 4G, while the Nokia Lumia 620 is only 3G capable.

The question I posed in the title of this article is easy to answer. With smartphones like the Nexus 4, priced at $50 more ($299 for the 8 GB model), this Windows Phone is going to have a tough time finding its place against the competition. Cases with a choice of colors are cute, but performance reigns supreme and the Nexus 4 flat out beats the Nokia Windows Phone dead.

This is my opinion. What do you think?

Comments, as always, are welcome.

Source: CNET

Image source: Microsoft

How to Properly Clean Your Android Phone Before You Sell It

How to Properly Clean Your Android Phone Before You Sell ItDuring the past few months, almost all of the smartphone companies have released new models to attract the consumer’s pocketbook. From models that require a contract to models that can be used on pre-paid plans, there is something for all of us to think about buying. If you’re replacing and selling your old Android smartphone, you need to make sure that your device has been cleaned properly.

Why is it important to make sure that your old Android smartphone is cleaned properly? In a day and age where identity theft is prolific, we need to make sure that the buyer of our old phone is not tempted to either confiscate out identifying information or use one of our online accounts without our knowledge.

Our smartphones have become hotbeds of information that is stored on the phones themselves, on memory cards, or online. Some of this personal information can contain our social security number, our date of birth, credit card information, and much more. Even passwords for online accounts can be stored, providing an unscrupulous person with access to our private data.

One of the first things you will want to do is to back up your stuff. I use Lookout as my security program, which has a built-in backup service that works automatically. I also use Google Gmail as my contact source for email and texting, and this works for me. Whatever way you choose, backing up will save your data for later use.

If your phone has a SIM card, it could hold carrier and subscription information or may also have your contacts and other personal data. The SIM card can also be used for your next phone, so you do not want the new buyer to use it. Removing the SIM card is easy; it just slides out from the back of the phone once the cover is removed.

While you have the rear cover of the phone off, also remove the external SD card from your phone. An SD card adds extra storage to your phone and you may have personal information or personal photographs stored on it. If your new phone has an SD card slot, you will be able to reuse the same card and have access to your personal stuff.

Thus far you have cleaned up your phone fairly well, but there is another step you will need to take to protect your data. Included among your applications could be logon information including your username or password[s]. What would happen if the buyer of your phone had access to your email, Facebook account, or other personal accounts?

Depending on the version of Android that your phone uses, the location of the next feature my require you to hunt around, but you want to do a factory reset of your phone. Go into Settings and look under Privacy or Backup Reset until you locate this feature. Once the factory reset has completed, all of your personal data should be gone for good and you can now sell your phone with confidence.

Comments are welcome.

CC licensed Flickr photo above shared by closari

Green Throttle to Turn Your Android Device into a Gaming Console

Green Throttle to Turn Your Android Device into a Gaming ConsoleThe introduction of Green Throttle, which comes with a simple application and an analog controller, plans to turn your Android phone into a gaming console. For anyone who owns an Android phone, Green Throttle promises to provide you with a mobile gaming experience, which the company claims will rival most consoles. In addition to great gaming, Green Throttle promises a great price, which may be as little as $49.95.

What Green Throttle offers is the precision control that a touchscreen cannot deliver. For anyone who has attempted to play a traditional console-type game on a touchscreen knows, the experience is lacking, to say the least. Green Throttle hopes to solve this problem and add true gaming to your Android phone.

But before you start to jump up and down, there are some hardware limitations. Your Android phone needs to be connected to your television for the best user experience, according to the company that produces the Green Throttle hardware. The company currently lists the Google Galaxy Nexus, HTC One X, Samsung Galaxy S III, and the Galaxy Note as functioning properly with the controller. In addition, your phone must be using Android 3.2 or above and you must install the application to get the controller functioning.

The biggest benefit of using an Android phone as a gaming console is the fact that most folks upgrade their phones more than they do their consoles. New Android phones are being introduced at a fairly rapid pace, making the Android phone the most purchased phone in the world. With this in mind, even if you may not have a compatible phone today, in the near future you may own a phone that can double as a gaming console.

But hold on! This even gets better, since I just read in the Green Throttle press release that Android-powered tablets will also be supported. The requirement to use a Green Throttle controller is that your tablet needs to be equipped with a video out connection. If your current Android tablet device doesn’t have a video out connection, you may wish to make sure that the next Android tablet that you purchase includes this hardware. As an example, both the 7″ Amazon Kindle HD model and the new 8.9″ Amazon Kindle HD tablet come with micro-HDMI connectors.

So there you have it. I personally believe that this controller and associated application could potentially change the way that we play games.

What do you think? Can you see a Green Throttle controller in your future?

Comments are welcome.

Source: Green Throttle
Source: Green Throttle Press

Never Miss an Important Phone Call, Email, or Text Message

Never Miss An Important Phone Call, Email, or Text MessageAre you like me; do you live in an environment where your only phone is a cellphone? Have you dumped your landline and now your smartphone reigns supreme? You may have come to realize that the chance of missing those very important phone calls has elevated as a result. There is now a new product on the market that will assist you in getting those important calls through to you — even when your phone is on vibrate.

The product is called CelXT Node, which is currently in the funding stages at Indiegogo. The problem, which CelXT hopes to solve, is to assist those of us who go to a meeting, turn off or put their phones on vibrate, and forget to turn their phones back on. Sound familiar? The unfortunate fact is that this happens to all of us on occasion. As we wander around for a few hours, out of touch with the world, we finally realize what we have done.

CelTX Node has come to the rescue by connecting our cellphones, either by Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, and insists that you will never miss a phone call, email, or text message ever again. Plus, this notification system will work no matter where your phone is located at your office or in your home. CelTX will always alert you when an incoming message is detected. The specifications for the CelTX Node are:

  • ARM Processor
  • 1 MB Flash
  • 192k RAM
  • Speakerphone
  • Headset Jack
  • Touchscreen
  • Bluetooth 2.1
  • Wireless
  • Accelerometer
  • Vibrator Motor
  • Charger
  • Optional Dock

By using your current Wi-Fi system at your place of business or home, you will be able to take advantage of extending the range between your cell phone and the CelTX Node. The company also states that a user could potentially take advantage of other features available to Wi-Fi users including VoIP, Internet-enabled mini applications, and DNLA connectivity.

So there you have it: a feature-rich device that can add value to your cellphone, prevent missed phone calls, missed emails, or missed text messages, plus much more.

Comments are welcome.

Source: CelTX Node

Questions to Ask Before You Buy a Handheld Device

Questions to Ask Before You Buy a Handheld DeviceThere’s a handheld device out there that can specifically cater to your needs. All you need to do to find it is to be aware of your needs and wants and look hard enough. Even if you do buy the best or the cheapest device on the market, you might not be getting what you need as price is not an indicator when addressing such needs.

So before you go off to the electronics store and start looking at machines in a display case, the first step to buying your device starts here. The Internet has a wealth of information about mobile phones and tablets that may interest you, as you can find a myriad of reviews for each and every device on the market.

To help you narrow down your search, here are some questions that you should ask yourself even before you begin searching:

  • Do I want a phone, a tablet, or both?
  • Do I want a telephone solution or a tiny computer?
  • What kind of interface do I prefer? Touchscreen, numeric keypad, or QWERTY?
  • What brand am I leaning towards? Do I have any particular loyalty to a specific brand I use or do I want to try something completely new?
  • How much am I willing to spend, roughly?
  • How soon do I need this device?

These questions are a great way to start your quest to find your handheld device. To help you even further, here are some tips:

  • Look at specs online and videos of user experience. Video reviews can show you just what kind of experience you can expect when you buy the device and how it looks in comparison to a human hand. There are a lot of third-party websites that do independent, specs-based reviews on every gadget out there. Make sure you go through more than one to see if the information matches up.
  • An Apple device is always more expensive because of the brand, how it looks, and the user experience. This is not to say that an iPhone or an iPad isn’t a great gadget, but you can always expect it to be more expensive than devices that can roughly do the same thing but with a different operating system. There are apps that are exclusive on one particular OS, while some apps like RingCentral, MS OneNote, and Temple Run still have versions for both iOS and Android.
  • An Android device is always very customizable, but a little complicated. The Android version the device uses can be different from a lot of other devices and compatibility with anything is always a big issue. If you’re ready to go through the open source travails of an Android device, then you can get great rewards.

Aside from these questions to ask before you buy a handheld device, do you have any that you stand by before making similarly large purchases? Please feel free to leave a comment and share!

Image: Veronica Veronese With Her iPad, after Rossetti by Mike Licht,

Five Reasons to Consider an Unlocked Android Phone

For those of us who have been with any of the various US phone carriers on their contract plans, we are well aware of the restrictions and limitations that may apply. One can purchase a rather hot new phone design, at a reasonable price, providing one is willing to sign their phone rights over for a period of two years to the company store. These types of contracts also carry with it a phone that is locked into a specific carrier. Buying an Android phone for service with company A prohibits that same phone from working with company B.

What is an Unlocked Android Phone?

If you would like to take advantage of a pre-paid phone plan with no contract, buying a phone that is unlocked may be your best option. An unlocked phone is not tied to any specific carrier and, on a GSM phone, you only need to slip in a SIM card to begin making phone calls on the carrier of your choosing.

As an example, a friend of mine had purchased an unlocked GSM smartphone and, using a SIM for the Straight Talk phone carrier, was able to use a pre-paid limited plan for only $30 a month. She has the option to use the $45 a month plan with unlimited service if she so chooses. So even with the purchase price of $350 for the unlocked phone, over the course of a two-year contract plan, the savings will be in excess of $800 per her estimate.

What Are the Other Benefits of an Unlocked Android Phone?

  • You can get a phone that is not loaded with a lot of the gunk and funk that carriers place on their branded phones.
  • You may get updates faster from the phone company than from your carrier.
  • You get to take control of the plan and features you want, not what is being prearranged by the phone carrier as a must-have plan.
  • Cost savings can be significant when compared to a two-year contract plan.

What You Should Know Before Buying an Unlocked Phone?

  • The out-of-pocket expense can be significantly higher than what you will pay when signing up a for a two-year contract.
  • The selection of phones may not be the current state of the art phones that have recently been released. (There are certain exceptions.)
  • Only cellphones that use SIM cards, both AT&T and T-Mobile support GSM phones, will function with unlocked phones.
  • There is no support and I have seen some unlocked Android phones being sold with no warranty as well.

How Much Does an Unlocked Android Phone Cost?

Five Reasons to Consider an Unlocked Android PhoneThis all depends on the type of smartphone you wish to buy. On Google Play you can purchase the Google Galaxy Nexus HSPA+ for $349.00. According to the Google Play website, this phone is compatible with AT&T and T-Mobile carriers.

One of the companies that has a very large selection of unlocked phones is Amazon. The selection it offers includes unlocked phones from a low of approximately $30 up to and including the newest Samsung Galaxy III priced at $599 as of the date this article is being written.

So what do you think? Can you survive with an unlocked Android phone on a pre-paid plan?

Comments welcome.

Source: Amazon Unlocked Phone Shop

Source: Google Play Galaxy Nexus HSPA+

Android Ice Cream Sandwich: 10 Tips, Tricks, and New Features

There has been a lot of talk around the Internet about Google and questions as to why it hasn’t yet provided an upgrade for Android users in the latest release of its Ice Cream Sandwich. In general, the complaints revolve around companies being slow in releasing updates to the different formats at the same time. I feel that these complaints are justifiable and I can understand why users are frustrated. However, for those of us who can enjoy Google’s Ice Cream Sandwich, here are a few new features that have been added.

Invert Screen Rendering

Screen rendering inversion allows me to change the background of my Kindle application to black and the text to an easy-to-read shade of blue. This feature makes it easier to read my Kindle apps at night, and is now a standard component of ICS; you can access it by going into the browser’s setting tab and accessibility area.

Within this feature you are also given the opportunity to change the Contrast setting, which can benefit anyone who finds the default colors not to their liking.

Remove the Lock Screen

Older versions of Android phones were programmed with the lock screen feature enabled. Its purpose was to protect the user’s information, which is accessible when this feature is not enabled. However, if you are not worried about others being able to access your information and would prefer to remove the lock screen from your phone, it is easy to do. If you don’t have ICS and do not currently use a gesture, PIN, or password on your system, you can simply slide the lock screen open when you wish it to be inactive. On ICS, however, you can set the application to leave the lock screen open by going into Security and then choosing None next to the Screen Lock option.

Access Notifications from the Lock Screen

With ICS Android 4, you now have the ability to access your notifications from the Lock Screen. However, doing this can pose yet another security threat to your personal information. But if convenience is at the top of your must-have list, accessing your notifications is a simple procedure. Basically it only requires that you press the Power On button and then touch the Notifications icon. This will allow you to scroll down through your latest messages.

Set Up Your Own Personal Text Message to Reject Callers

In case you are one of those people who actually receive a phone call on your cellphone, ICS now includes a way to send the caller back a message via text. To do this, you simply answer the call and immediately hit the Lock Screen notification when it comes up. This will allow you to access a custom Reject Message area. This area, in turn, allows you to send the caller a customized message intended just for them.

Control Your Data Usage

Previously, this may not have been a hot issue, but this is quickly changing as more and more carriers are beginning to limit their data usage plans. With this in mind, Android 4.0 has added new controls for data usage, making it possible for you to monitor your data usage. For you to get a handle on your usage, go to your Settings application. Once the app is opened, you will find an area where you can set warnings for the amount of data being used for each application and where you will be able to set hard limits on data usage or disable mobile data at a certain usage point.

Enjoy a New Internet Browsing Experience

The Android browser is now offering an improved Internet experience, functioning in a manner reminiscent of a desktop browser and making it more user-friendly. In addition, for those of you using Google Chrome, it is now possible to sync any bookmarks that you have saved. This is a great feature since it means that you can now keep your favorite bookmarks (from any account) at your fingertips. Additionally, the programmers have now made it possible for you to override a browser’s text size, thereby enabling you to easily zoom in and out of Web articles. Last, according to Google, this feature allows for a 220% speed increase in rendering performance over older Android browsers.

Use Face Unlock

This feature reminds me of a biotech firm security measure intended for the masses. With Face Unlock, the screen uses your own face to unlock the device. To work, the Face Unlock technology takes advantage of the device’s front-facing camera, along with facial recognition technology, to register your face during setup. You just merely hold the phone up to your face and the screen unlocks. In case you are afraid of the software failing and locking you out of your device, you can relax. The programmer has already foreseen this possibility and has built in a backup PIN number just in case the facial recognition software fails.

How to Turn Automatic Icons Off

If you are one of the people who prefers to set up your own shortcuts, Google has designed a way for you to turn off the automatic appearance of newly installed application icons on your desktop. To turn this feature off, go to Google Play Application Settings and uncheck the Auto-add Shortcut feature.

View New Home Screen Folders Plus Favorites Tray

With Android 4, you can now group your applications and shortcuts together or, if you prefer, you can drag one onto the other. In the Application Launcher, simply drag and drop to uninstall or disable an application. For small screen devices, there is now a feature to keep your Favorites tray visible across all screens, making it easy to access your favorite applications.

Favorites tray is now available from any screen

Use the New Camera Application with Plenty of Improvements

The Camera application on my current Android Gingerbread system has a noticeable delay when taking pictures. This is a thing of the past if you are using the new ICS since this new application takes pictures immediately and without any lag time. In addition, you can now take video and snap shots at the same time. It’s a nice touch for those of us who depend on our smartphones to take photos on the go.

As you can see, the ICS is a great program and has more features than you probably know. However, don’t be discouraged if your cellphone manufacturer has no intention of upgrading your device to Ice Cream Sandwich because all is not lost. To find out how to easily you can change your existing Android version to an Android Ice Cream theme, just follow the directions that are included in a previous article I wrote, Android Ice Cream Sandwich: Do You Really Need It?

Comments welcome.

CC licensed Flickr photos above shared by abulhussain

Source: Google

How to Android

20 Android Ice Cream Sandwich Tips and Tricks

AT&T Buys T-Mobile USA

To the tune of $39 billion, T-Mobile USA is being sold to AT&T, according to BusinessWire. AT&T states that the acquisition allows for a combination of network resources creating a better infrastructure for service.

This agreement gives 4G LTE coverage to over 34 million T-Mobile subscribers. AT&T has agreed to further their commitment to 4G LTE expansion to include 95 percent of their U.S. customers. This would allow for better support for their rural customers in addition to smaller towns.

“This transaction represents a major commitment to strengthen and expand critical infrastructure for our nation’s future,” said Randall Stephenson, AT&T Chairman and CEO.

While this certainly will affect customers from both major networks, the agreement has the potential of setting standards other carriers will be more inclined to follow. Tom Merit of TWiT tweeted, “T-Mobile’s flimsy 4G gets a boost with this I guess. So if Sprint does flip to LTE, we could have a standard in the US.”

Still, this does bring in to question whether or not AT&T’s recent crackdown on bandwidth usage through caps and fees will extend to an even larger customer base.

Source: BusinessWire

How to Upgrade Samsung Captivate to Android 2.2 Froyo

Users of the Samsung Captivate, AT&T’s version of the Samsung Galaxy S, have been stuck with a somewhat sloppy and terribly buggy Android 2.1 release until recently when AT&T announced that finally the phone will receive the update it was promised last year.

As mentioned previously, user frustrations with purchasing a device on the platform were rooted in massively delayed updates leaving you versions behind the current Android release. Within two months of users finally getting the update, Android 2.4 is set for release in to the wild. Users can only assume an update to 2.3, if it happens at all, will come around the time 2.5 is ready.

In order to receive this update, you need to download Samsung Kies Mini, a smaller and less desktop-looking version of Samsung’s proprietary syncing and update program. At the time this article is written, this utility appears made to work only on Windows machines, though Mac users have reported CrossOver for OS X has worked, allowing them to make the update.

Before you sync the phone and begin the update process, it must be charged to at least 80-90% before the program will allow the update to take place. This is done due to the risk of a dead battery causing the phone to turn in to a useless paperweight.

Once you plug the phone in to the USB cable connected to your machine, unlock the phone and choose “Firmware Update” as the sync option. Kies Mini will then check your phone’s current firmware version and a large button on the lower left quadrant of the window titled “Phone Upgrade” will light up. Simply click it, accept terms and conditions, and begin the update process.

At this time, you have about 5-10 minutes before anything else needs to be done. During the update, the phone’s screen will display various screens including one with a giant yellow warning sign reminding you not to unplug or turn off the phone until the process is complete. Once the Samsung Kies window indicates the update is complete, you’re ready to go.

While the process is mostly non-destructive, it’s important to remember to back up your important photos, videos, and contacts prior to upgrading your phone’s OS. If everything goes exactly as planned, the only action required is the replacement of your shortcuts and widgets. Programs, email, and browser settings retained their configurations after the upgrade.

Helpful Link: Samsung Kies Mini Download

How to Choose Between Android and the iPhone

When considering a choice between one mobile platform and another, there are a lot more factors to consider than your carrier will mention. Sure, they’ll tell you one platform is taking off and the other isn’t. They’ll try to lure you in with processor speeds and storage capacity and even bring you the latest batch of gibberish about screen size. These are important factors, but sometimes it’s what isn’t said that makes a difference.

When reading the points below, I’m sure more than a few Windows phone users will want to point out where that platform is better or worse. Fact is, I haven’t had the opportunity to try one of the new Windows mobile devices yet, so I’m sticking to what I know.

Do you like the OS as it is, or will you expect regular updates?
When the Samsung Galaxy S series came out, customers flocked to what appeared to be the most powerful and robust device on the Android platform, myself included. I purchased the Samsung Captivate which featured a 1ghz processor and a giant screen running on Android OS 2.1. At the time, Samsung and AT&T had both mentioned the phone would quickly be updated with the current version 2.2 OS as soon as it was ready. It’s been almost a year now and this update never came. Problems that linger from 2.1 are still an issue on this phone and I’m pretty much stuck with it for 2 years.

The iPhone, on the other hand, has updates immediately available to everyone across the board as long as they have a phone within the past few generations. In the realm of keeping the software up to date, the iPhone pulls out ahead.

Do you expect apps to run consistently no matter what hardware you purchased?
One thing about the Android platform that stunned me when I actually purchased one of these phones is how hard the software is to make compatible across different devices. In my day-to-day job, I occasionally have to conduct interviews where an audio recording can come in handy. Having purchased “the most powerful” Android device of its time, I expected just about any voice recorder app to work just fine. I purchased five of them, and not one of them was compatible with the Samsung Captivate. They work great on the EVO and Nexus One but apparently they don’t run so well on others. Not having the ability to upgrade my OS also causes severe problems when it comes to purchasing apps.

The iPhone has a particular set of hardware developers are able to work with so their code is expected to work across the board on their phones. One drawback, however, is that some of the more complex programs that take advantage of the 3Gs and the iPhone 4’s more powerful processor can choke on the original iPhone and the iPhone 3G. Thankfully, you can see this issue clearly on the app’s summary page that lets you know which devices are compatible.

Do you want to completely customize your UI?
Probably the best feature on the Android platform for me was the ability to use widgets on your main screens. A Google search bar, Pandora player, Facebook summary, and Twitter all run side-by-side with shortcuts on the GUI. Within an hour of owning an Android phone I was easily over my loss of the iPhone based on this feature alone. For me, the user experience is about seeing data quickly and easily without having to search for and launch programs.

The iPhone has come with a lingering promise to make this possible down the line, and they’ve made a start with the media player controls on iOS 4 being  accessible with a double-tap of the home key and a swipe. Rumor has it that iOS 5 will step up the multitasking a bit and allow for widgets, but I wouldn’t base a purchasing decision on a rumor.

Do you run Windows, OSX, or Linux?
This question is never asked by the carrier rep when they’re attempting to pair you with a new phone. It’s a very legitimate question considering some phones don’t sync well with some operating systems. When I got my Android 2.1 phone home I was a little shocked to discover that it didn’t Sync with Mac OSX out of the box like it did with my Windows machine. There is a workaround that makes this possible, though in the world of user experience, having to do a workaround to make a mobile device sync with a desktop isn’t good.

The same applies to Linux users, though they tend to be a heartier crowd that gets a case of the giddies when faced with a compatibility obstacle. Sorry Linux lovers out there but I run Fedora 14 on my work laptop and nothing makes my IT guy happier than being able to show off his skills by debugging the kernel when the video card stops functioning.

The iPhone syncs where iTunes is present. Linux users have found workarounds and jail breaking tends to make life easier for them. While iTunes isn’t everyone’s favorite program, I’ve found it to be a lot more pleasant and easy to use then Samsung Keis, which only runs on Windows.

No matter what platform you choose for your mobile experience, it’s important to look at a lot more than just the screen size or processor clock speed. You need to make sure that your phone fits your expectations. For some, Android is a brilliant platform that gives users more choice. To others, the iPhone represents a solid user experience that is consistent across the board. Which platform works best for you?

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.

The Number You Call For Technical Support Really Does Matter

When you call technical support or for information about any company, the number you call really does matter. For the past few months I have written articles about my experience with Straight Talk. Yet when I have needed support from Straight Talk, I have found that either email support for a simple problem, or calling its corporate office, resulted in better customer service than calling the standard technical support phone number. FYI – the Straight Talk corporate phone number is 800-876-5753.

I also discovered that when you call DIRECTV, if you call 800-531-500 and press 0 0 quickly, you can usually cut down on your wait time. I received this tip from a DIRECTV representative when I called before. It seems to work, but like any tip, your mileage may vary.

So if you can stand listening to music for countless minutes on end, or just sit holding a phone to your ear, how do you find the best number to call?

My first step is to do a Google and find out what others are using. You would be surprised at how many recommendations you will find.

There is another trick you can try. When you are prompted to push a number, do nothing. Remember those old rotary phones? The system may be fooled into thinking you have an oldie but a goodie and connect you to a real person. Remember, your mileage will vary depending on which company or business you call.

Give GETHUMAN [link below] a try. This website has a listing of phone numbers for a wide assortment of companies and businesses that others have found useful. They even offer a listing of phone numbers for some elusive companies like Google and Facebook.

What tips do you have? Share your experiences with us.

Comments welcome.

Source – Gethuman

Do You Rely on Your Phone?

Someone asked recently if I could live without my cell phone. Ten years ago, I could have. Back then, wasn’t smart at all. It was big. It had a lot of buttons on it. But it didn’t really DO much.

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These days, my smartphone has turned into the best computer I’ve ever had. It’s with me anytime I leave the room, let alone the house. I don’t (and can’t) always carry my iPad or laptop with me. I certainly don’t haul my desktop around. My phone is always in my pocket and I can use it to do nearly anything I can do with the other devices.

My phone allows me to stay better connected with the world around me. I’m able to do most of what I need to do from wherever I am – I’m even always online. This is a more powerful computer than what I had back in high school. I don’t need a physical keyboard or mouse for a device to be a computer. It’s a basic input/output device. That’s all I need.

I don’t know if – today – I could live without my phone. I truly don’t think I could. How about you? Could you live without your phone?