Smartphone 101 – Retrieving Voice Mail

Retrieving Voice Mail

Voice mail is a wonderful tool and can be a huge help, especially if you have a busy schedule. Getting it and managing its contents can be a challenge for the busy individual. This section assumes you’ve set up your voice mail account and it’s all good to go.

iPhone

  1. Open the phone app
    VM-ios-01
  2. Tap the voice mail icon on the bottom right of the app screen
    VM-ios-02
  3. Tap the voice mail message you wish to hear. It will expand to show a progress bar, representing the audio length of the message.
    VM-ios-03
  4. Press the play button on the left side of the screen. The message will play.
    VM-ios-04
  5. If you wish to save the message for later, do nothing. If you wish to delete the message, tap the Delete button.

Note: the iPhone uses Visual Voice Mail, which brings a more tactile voice mail management system to the device as opposed to the more traditional voice mail systems (like Windows Phone, below).

 

Android

Please note that voice mail systems on Android devices can vary from device to device, even on the same carrier. Some have Visual Voice Mail, like the iPhone, above. Others have more traditional voice mail systems. The following demonstrates voice mail retrieval on the HTC One (M8) on Verizon Wireless.

    1. Open the phone app.
      VM-and-01
    2. Press and hold the “1” button. Voice Mail will be called.
      VM-and-02

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Smartphone 101 – Receiving a Call

There are a couple-three different scenarios here, believe it or not. Some or all of them may present you with different screens and buttons when they occur.

  • Receiving a Call with the Phone in Standby/ Screen Locked
  • Receiving a call while using the Phone/ Screen Unlocked
  • Receiving a call while on Another Call (Did you know your Phone (likely) has Call Waiting, free of charge?)

Receiving a Call with the Phone in Standby/ Screen Locked

This is probably the most common scenario, unless you’re on your phone, literally, all the time.   Let’s assume that your smartphone is charged, and on a desk, or in a bag

    1. From a screen off position, your phone rings.
      RECV-ios-01 RECV-and-01 RECV-WP-01
      iOS Android Windows Phone
    2. Unlock the phone and answer the call. For iOS, slide the bar to the right. For Android, tap the green call button. For Windows Phone, slide the screen up.
      RECV-ios-01 RECV-and-02 RECV-WP-02
      iOS Android Windows Phone
  1. Conduct your call.
    RECV-ios-02 RECV-and-03 RECV-WP-03
    iOS Android Windows Phone
  2. When you’re done, press the End Call button to terminate the call.
RECV-ios-02 RECV-and-04 RECV-WP-03
iOS Android Windows Phone

 

Receiving a Call while the Device is in Use

This is probably the next most common scenario.   Let’s assume that your smartphone is charged, on and you’re using an app.

 

    1. While the phone is in use, you receive a phone call.
      USE-ios-01 RECV-and-01 RECV-WP-01
      iOS Android Windows Phone
    2. Answer the call. For iOS, tap the green call button. For Android, tap the green call button. For Windows Phone, tap the blue answer button.
      USE-ios-01 RECV-and-02 USE-WP-02
      iOS Android Windows Phone

 

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Smartphone 101 – Making a Phone Call

OK… now that we have everything synching between your phone and your email account, let’s figure out exactly how to use it.

If you remember I started this series a few weeks ago and had one article about setting up your email account and address book and then one about synching that data to your smartphone. At this point, any changes or additions you make to either your email account via your computer or on your smartphone, to any of that data, will appear in both places.  It’s really pretty cool.

Integration, remember..? It’s all about integrating your data into the places where you will make the most use of it. That’s what makes your smartphone smart. It puts your data where you want to use it most – meaning your phone – and even anticipates how you want to use it, sometimes.

Your address book can hold listings for friends, family, businesses and the like. You’re likely going to want to call your parents on the weekends, your children’s pediatrician when they’re sick or need a checkup, and your dry cleaners to make sure that your clothes are read to be picked up, among many, many other things.  You may just want to yack your head off with your best friend.  Who knows…

Here’s the best way to do all that in all three major mobile operating systems. There are a couple-three scenarios here.

  • Making a Call

  • Receiving a Call

  • Retrieving Voice Mail

Let’s run through all of them quickly.

Making a Call

There are a few different ways to make a call – you can dial directly, search for a person in your address book or dial from a Favorites – or frequently called numbers – list.  I’m going to try to make this easy and have screenshots from all three operating systems in each section so we only have to do this once. Please note that the instructions here are going to reflect calling numbers here in the United States. If you live in another country, please sub in your country specifics for direct dialing numbers.

Dialing Directly

  1. Open your device’s Phone app and switch to the dialing pad screen

    DD-ios-01 DD-and-01 DD-WP-01
    iOS Android Windows Phone
  2. Dial the 10 digit phone number:  (area code) phone-number and press the (usually green) Phone button on the dialer to initiate the call.

DD-ios-02 DD-and-02 DD-WP-02
iOS Android Windows Phone

Please note – in the US, you do not NEED to dial a “1” in front of the phone number as you do on your land line phone.  While your call will still connect if you do, it’s not required on the cellular network like it is on the land line network. In most cases, unless you’re going to do any regular, international travel, you should NOT store your phone numbers as +1 (area code) phone-number.  Leave the “1” (or “+1”) off unless you DO travel internationally; and then it’s a good idea to have the “+1” prefix.

    1. Conduct your call.

      DD-ios-04 DD-and-03 DD-WP-03
      iOS Android Windows Phone

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Smartphone 101 – I’m supposed to talk into WHICH end??

I was recently approached by a good friend who needs help as a first time smartphone owner. Here are the basics of what you need to know.

I’ve been in mobile devices before they were mobile.  If there’s one thing that I’ve learned over the past over the past 18 years it’s what makes a smartphone smart; and it can be summed up in one word, really: Integration.

smartphone-helpSmartphones are only smart because they take information from one part of your life – your address book for example, and allow you to make not only phone (voice) calls with it, but make video calls, send emails, get directions and have your mobile device navigate you to a friend’s house from some place you’ve never been before. It’s smart because it connects the dots between places you never thought even had dots, let alone places.

If you’ve never owned a smartphone before, they can be a bit daunting.  Heck… they can be down-right scary.  Over the next five days, I’m going to put my iOS vs. Android vs. Windows Phone comparisons aside and instead run through a few how-to’s on how to get into a smartphone if you’ve never had one before.  I’m going to cover the following:

Making and Receiving Phone Calls – How to make sure you push the right button or slide the right thingy in the right direction so you can take the call.  If you miss it, you’ll also want to know how to get to your voice mail, how to listen to, respond to and manage voice messages.

Messaging (Texting, Multimedia and email) – How to make sure you send the right notes and the right pictures to the right people, because …well, with great power comes great responsibility.  In the wrong hands, that information can be used for great evil. Believe me, not everyone can handle, “all this…” and I don’t think I want them to, either.

Pictures and Home Video – Let’s face it… You have a smartphone because it’s easier to take and send pictures of the kids with one device. You’re not going to carry your digital point-n-shoot camera or DSLR with you everywhere you go. Your kids, however, will be adorable and cute despite your current state of preparedness. Most smartphones have cameras that are just as good as, or better than, many high-priced point-n-shoot digital cameras; and they take decent video, too. Let’s figure out how to use it and share it with the world.  This section may overlap slightly with Messaging, above.

Music and Movies – You’ve spent years refining your music library. You’ve got movies to occupy the kids during that long car ride to grandma’s house. Let’s figure out how to get your multimedia on your smartphone.  This is going to differ from platform to platform (desktop/laptop PC or Mac) and between Mobile OS to Mobile OS.

Apps – While we’re walking through the ecosystem (I’ll cover that term very briefly in this section), let’s realize that your smartphone is probably more powerful than the PC that took you (or your parents, depending on how old you are) through high school and college. It’s a mini PC that you can take everywhere, and it can do more than you think. Here, I’m going to show you how to get apps on your smartphone.  You figure out how to use them; though I will cover Facebook slightly. It’s integrated into all three Mobile Operating Systems pretty deeply.

Local Search and Navigation – You don’t need a dedicated GPS unit or a phone book any more.  Your smartphone CAN get you there from here, even if you’ve never been there or here before. I’m going to cover Google Maps and Apple Maps in this section.  They’re close enough that the one set of instructions should get you where you wanna go, but I will likely have two sets of screen shots…

If you can get through these basic how-to’s without a bloody nose, you should be good to go.  At that point, you’ll have mastered the basics and should be savvy enough to branch out into other areas on your own.  In fact, if you can get through all of the above, you won’t be a beginner any longer and should consider yourself pretty proficient.

However, if there’s something you want me to cover, hit me up in the comments and let me know what it is.  The only thing I ask is that you let me know what kind of smartphone you have (iPhone, Android or Windows Phone) so I can give you the right kind of instructions. It may also help to know what mobile carrier you have here in the States, and if you’re using pre or post paid service. Depending on which one you use, things may be a bit different…

Hold on to your hats kids. Your world… its about to get a bit bigger.

 

Smartphone 101 – Prerequisite #1: Setting up Your Address Book

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iOS 8 – What it Needs to Be

The iPhone 6 will more than likely accompany iOS 8. Here’s my annual list of requirements for the latest version of Apple’s mobile OS and its associated hardware.

ios8

As you all know, I’ve been involved in consumer computing since the dawn of the PC. As far as mobile computing is concerned, I feel I’ve been involved with it since the dawn of time as well. Heck, I owned every Compaq iPAQ from the 3100 to the 5000 series, including the 6300-6400 series Pocket PC phones.  Yes.  It’s true…

Hello, my name is Christopher and I’m a mobile device-aholic.

Truth be told, I’m simply a gadget and button junkie who likes to take it with him.  All the time. Everyday. Out loud.  Most of you also know that the iPhone holds a special place in my mobile kit. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about that lately, especially in light of the HTC One (M8) review that I wrote for Soft32.  There’s more that’s out there than just the same sized iPhone with relatively the same hardware specs and capabilities that have been in use since the iPhone 4/4S (with a few minor hardware upgrade bumps).

Now, truth be told – I’m very invested in the Apple’s iDevice ecosystem.  From a hardware perspective, I have an iPad, an iPhone and a MacBook Pro. I’ve purchased apps for all of them. More importantly, I have content that I’ve purchased from the iTunes Store in the form of movies and TV shows, music and apps that work with all of them.  I have some stuff in the Google Play and Amazon content stores, but in truth, they are eclipsed by the amount of content I’ve purchased in iTunes. As such, I’ve realized that I’m likely never leaving the Apple ecosystem. It doesn’t make sense to. I have too much content to move or convert; and then I have no idea how to remove DRM from iTunes-based video… I don’t think I even want to try… I’ve simply spent too much time and money on acquiring and organizing the content to worry about trying to get it into another ecosystem.  In the end, I realize that I’ve gotten tangled in the vines of Apple’s walled garden…

If you find yourself in the same boat, don’t despair.  It doesn’t mean that we must simply settle for anything and everything that Apple gives us. We don’t. As a member of Apple’s desktop AND mobile development programs, I file bugs on issues that I see in both iOS and OS X all the time.  Apple regularly looks at that information and at the topics in their support forums before they start planning any release or update to either operating system. In fact, there are several examples of Apple putting out both mobile and desktop releases to specifically address bugs or issues that have been identified in both types of forums.  Apple also (occasionally) looks to the tech press for suggestions and/or escalation of issues that they may have overlooked.

With the iPhone 6 and iOS 8 anticipated to be introduced in about a month at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, nearly everyone is all abuzz about what the changes or improvements are or should be.  As I’ve had this on my mind lately, I thought I’d chime in and give everyone MY two cents worth…

1. iCloud – More at a Lower Price
A few weeks ago, Google made drastic changes to its Google Drive pricing and storage plans.  Previously, I was paying $20/month for 400GB of space. It was more than I needed.  Google grandfathered that storage and pricing plan and upgraded me. Now, for literally half the price ($10/month), Google is providing 1.0TB of space. The only reason why I haven’t put most of my digital photos into Drive is because my internet provider has a monthly bandwidth watchdog; and even though I have the highest tiered data plan they offer (I have Internet only, as you may remember) Cox still sends hate mail when that cap is exceeded every month, suggesting I purchase a larger plan. I would if I could, but I can’t.

Anyway, iCloud… Apple’s free plan only provides 5GB of space.  If you have a full, 8GB iDevice, you won’t be able to back it up to iCloud without purchasing additional space.  Apple still only provides 50GB max space in iCloud, and for that, they want $100 a year (roughly $8.33/ month).  However, for about that much, Google provides 20 times more space.  The time has come for Apple to provide more space at a comparable price, and WWDC would be a decent time to announce that. While they could do it at any time – because you shouldn’t need an OS update to take advantage of the additional space – if they do make a comparable change, they will likely wait until June to announce it.

2. At the end of the day, though, Apple could jump ahead of the curve.  While Google’s storage and plan offerings are insanely large for insanely little, both Amazon and Microsoft are way more expensive.  Microsoft currently doesn’t offer 1TB of space, though they are planning on providing it to their business customers only at $2.50 per user, per month.  Amazon provides 1TB of space for $500/ year, or about $42/ month.  Dropbox Pro provides 100GB for $10/ month (or 1/10th of what Google provides, at the same price).

3. Better Data Management – iCloud/iDevice File Management
Currently, the only way to get non-media related content (documents and such) into iCloud is to save them in an iCloud enabled app.  You can’t copy content directly into iCloud. There’s no synchronized folder like there is with Dropbox, Google Drive and Microsoft OneDrive.  Apple needs to get it together and provide this kind of file synchronization.

It would also be nice if Apple gave us some control over the data in the file store on an iOS device. I don’t think we need access to the entire file system, but for those files that you have synchronized to accessible on a device, it would be nice if you could organize them within that folder structure with the device. That’s just me…but I’m pretty certain many users would also appreciate having some level of file management capabilities for iCloud on the device.

4. Change Default Apps
Some people prefer Google Maps to Apple Maps (even though the latter is getting much better with each iOS iteration and release). Some people use 3rd party calendar or contact apps.  Some people use Chrome instead of Safari on their iDevice. It would be nice if Apple gave us a way to change which apps handled which data types so we could use the apps we prefer instead of Apple’s default apps. While Apple’s apps aren’t bad, there are better apps available in the App Store, and it would be nice to be able to use those instead of Apple’s standard apps.

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Aftermarket CarPlay Support Arrives in 2014

Both Alpine and Pioneer have promised to release aftermarket head units compatible with Apple’s CarPlay in 2014

If you remember, right before Apple announced CarPlay, I put out a lengthy article outlining a vision for what was then known as iOS in the Car. Right after that hit the site, it seems Apple got on the stick and decided to announce their long anticipated and highly sought after automotive integration.  It was pretty cool to compare what I was looking for and what Apple decided to do. I was close, but my vision didn’t quite have synergistic parity with Apple’s actual plans.

14.03.03-CarPlay-2

At the time of the announcement, companies like Volvo, Ferrari and GM announced support.  Shortly after that, a great many others announced support for the info-tainment system, including Ford, Honda, Hyundai, Nissan and Toyota, among others. As long as you’ve got an iPhone 5 or later running iOS 7.1 or later, your iPhone will support CarPlay and your NEW ride will have support for Apple’s ecosystem built in.

The problem comes in iPhone owners with older vehicles. No one knew if or when any aftermarket support for the standard would be introduced either via a firmware upgrade for existing head units or as new, aftermarket hardware that could be installed.  Thankfully, both Alpine and Pioneer have confirmed that they will both have units available for purchase – that should work in many popular vehicles – before the end of calendar 2014.

Pioneer will update the firmware of five of its new NEX in-dash multimedia receivers; and they are compatible with most existing vehicles.  Pioneer will also have entry level options for new receivers starting at $700 USD; and going up to $1400.

Alpine’s offerings will reportedly be offered in both the US and in Europe and are reported to range from $500 to $700 USD and is rumored to include a 7″ touch screen.  Movement for aftermarket support is coming faster than anticipated, as Kenwood said they wouldn’t have any CarPlay compatible systems in 2014. The fact that both of these high-quality, aftermarket providers will being offering multiple units at varying price points indicates huge aftermarket demand for what will likely become an standard across multiple automotive manufacturers.

For me, this means I’m buying a new head unit later this year. Period. My Toyota has a Kenwood system in it right now that isn’t quite iPhone 5 or iOS 7.x compatible, despite what Kenwood says.  The unit is very nice, but it frequently has issues connecting to my iPhone 5, has issues staying connected and then tends to beep or ping unexpectedly when speaking to callers. It gets so bad, that I often have to either delete the partnership between my iPhone and head unit and repair OR I have to remove the head unit face (killing Bluetooth) or turn Bluetooth on my iPhone off/on and allow it to repair.

This happens multiple times a week, and I’ve nearly ditched the head unit on a number of occasions. I recently discovered a firmware update for it and applied it, but it really didn’t improve anything for me. I’ve either got a bad head unit (not quite likely) or the firmware update/ Bluetooth profiles aren’t as robust as they could be/ should be (much more likely).  The problem isn’t my iPhone 5. It pairs with other Bluetooth devices (speakers, headsets, etc. – or those that make specific use of Bluetooth audio) without issues or needing any troubleshooting. I was seriously considering buying another, much more expensive – read, totally iPhone 5/s iPhone 6 compatible – head unit. I spend a great deal of time driving my car commuting to work and driving between Chicago and Omaha.

I need something that’s going to work and isn’t going to requiring a lot of hand holding and troubleshooting. Since I’m going to either stay with my iPhone 5 or upgrade to iPhone 6 (the smaller of the two larger screen models that are currently rumored to be released this Fall), I know I’m going to want something that will continue to work and work well with my smartphone of choice. That’s going to be something that’s CarPlay compatible.  Since I’ll likely keep an iPhone 6 for at least two years, or will keep my iPhone 5 indefinitely, paying a premium for the car head unit will be justified (at $500 that breaks down to about $21 a month).  It becomes an even better deal if I stay with my iPhone 5, as I won’t also have a new device purchase to fund as well as a new head unit.

For my wife, who has a Honda Odyssey with a factory head unit that plays DVD’s on a screen that flips down from the ceiling of the van, any CarPlay compatible replacement for her entertainment system would likely have to come directly from Honda in order to insure that everything works the way it’s supposed to. However, with the kids as active as THEY are after school, it’s likely that she will need something that works well with her iPhone 5, especially since she doesn’t have any kind of Bluetooth headset and Illinois passed a cellphone hands free law that went into effect 2014-01-01.  She’s on her phone all the time. If she doesn’t get something to help her be hands free, she’s gonna get pulled over, I just know it…

And unless the offerings from either Alpine or Pioneer work in her van and interface with her in-car DVD player, the CarPlay unit will likely HAVE to come from Honda, which will make it all the more expensive…if Honda even offers it as an aftermarket/post purchase add-on or upgrade. I don’t want to have to replace everything in that system.

What about you?  Are you an iPhone owner?  Will you be purchasing a CarPlay compatible head unit for your late model vehicle? Will you just purchase a new vehicle instead? Why don’t’ you join me in the discussion below and tell me what you’re going to do?

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A Vision for iOS in the Car

The key to getting this right is understanding Apple’s iOS vision and how people want to use the iPhone while driving.

I am a huge smartphone advocate. I’ve been using [modern] mobile devices since 1996. I’ve been using my smartphone in my car (I’ve had more than a few, with and without proprietary hands free kits (HFK’s)) since 2004.  I have exposure to the automotive industry that goes back 46 years, thanks to my father. He worked for Ford, American Motors, Chrysler and finally Toyota before retiring in 2009 and spending well over 44 years in the automotive industry.

To put it bluntly, I’ve been around cars and electronics all my life, and I have a clear, solid vision for how iOS in the Car should be implemented.  There’s a bit that’s fleshed out and some stuff that I’m still trying to wrap my hands around.  However, I wanted to get all of it down before it evaporated or before someone else got it “out there.”

A lot of what you’re going to see is going to come in outline form, as opposed to narrative, as its easier to capture in outline form.  That format still allows me to provide background information and additional narrative as necessary, without muddying up what I’m trying to get across.

2013-ford-flex-EcoBoost-steering-wheel

iOS in the Car is about a couple different things – automotive supported hardware, Apple iDevice integration and iOS and other Apple services integration (think iCloud). The concept should be accessible in all vehicles, not just built into new vehicles at point of manufacture (PoM).  The kits required to put this into older vehicles can be as elegant as a new console (if needed or desired) or as simple as a universal device holder. It just depends on how you want to do it, and how much you have or want to spend on it.

Most importantly, it should work with any iPhone that runs iOS 7.  While I have a vision of a dual screen (dash as well as secondary/navigation driver’s display) configuration, the whole thing should work regardless of the number of driver screens in the vehicle. Some manufacturers aren’t going to build in, and some users may not want, an electronic dash.  Most of the data provided by that screen can either be captured via accelerometer, ODB2 or other means.

  • Hardware Interface
    iPhone is the key. It contains all of the communications capabilities that you’d want or need for this baby to work.  While cellular iPads have mobile connectivity, until all mobile carriers provide VoIP services, you’re going to need a smartphone instead of a tablet.  iPods also don’t do cellular. An iPod with cellular connectivity is called an iPhone. Docking and powering your iDevice for iOS in Car is also going to work a lot better with the smaller iPhone as opposed to an iPad. Even the iPad mini is too big for this purpose, I think.
  • Docking your iPhone. Not iDevice. iPhone. Period.
    • Should support both 30-pin and Lightning connections
      • iPad/iPad mini is too big to dock
      • iPod Touch doesn’t provide complete communications
      • iPad doesn’t provide complete communications (cellular iPads can’t make calls…)
      • iPhone screen should go dark upon docking
        • activating the iPhone screen displays iOS in Car logo and directs user to the iOS in Car display(s)
      • Primary screen provides standard vehicle info
        • Shows speedometer, odometer, tachometer, etc.
      • Secondary screen built into dash
        • Limited touch interface
        • Main iOS interface is replaced with iOS in Car. This is not meant to be a hard wired iPad in your vehicle
      • Audio Interface
        • Communications should be completed via in car speakers
        • All audio should be completed via 30-pin or Lightning connector, if possible
  • Built In at PoM
    • Siri integration with external microphone
    • Built in docking mechanism
      • Completely secures and encases iPhone
      • Hides iPhone, with appropriate ventilation
      • Powers iPhone
      • IPhone must be docked to activate any iOS in Car functionality, and must be done while car remains in Park.
    • Automatically starts iOS in Car
    • Main vehicle display
      • Shows speedometer, odometer, tachometer, etc.
    • Secondary display
      • Activates only when needed, unless actively navigating
      • Automatic App functionality built in (via acquisition)
  • Displays OBD status
      • At startup
      • As faults detected
  • Displays Automatic trip information when vehicle is shut off and has changed GPS location
  • Provides State accepted emissions records for sanctioned emissions testing
  • After-Market Add-In
    • Siri integration with external microphone
    • Docking mechanism
      • Hides iPhone, with appropriate ventilation if hidden
      • Powers iPhone
    • Automatically starts iOS in Car
    • Supports all software functionality outlined below
    • Secondary screen functionality only
      • 3rd party display
      • End user provided permanently mounted, iPad mini
  • iOS in Car functionality limits iPad mini functionality when car’s transmission is in Drive
    • Rear seat Entertainment Center functionality is disabled unless vehicle owner provides AirPlay compatible devices for the back seat(s)
      • IPad mini providing secondary screen functionality (as noted above) will not play video
    • OBD2 Compliant
      • Must be connected into car’s ODB2 port (hard wire, or BLE)
      • Automatic App functionality built in (via acquisition)
  • Displays OBD status
    • At startup
    • As faults detected
      • Provides State accepted emissions records for sanctioned emissions testing
    • Does nearly everything that PoM solution does (except as noted), but the docking solution may not be as elegant.

The aftermarket solution should be Apple designed at least, I think. It may or may not work best with a dash or console replacement.  It could also work as a “car radio” type device that requires you to insert your iPhone like an audio cassette to save space, prevent a console or dash replacement, and to save space.  I know the console or dash replacement is a bit extreme and likely not an option for many, but it would be a really cool solution; and it would give your older vehicle a nice interior upgrade.

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2013 Last Minute Holiday Buyer’s Guide – Part 1

These are some of the hottest gifts available now, and some really good advice on which to get and why.

image2993Over the past few years, I’ve put together a Holiday Buyer’s Guide. I never got to do one last year due to commitments to the now defunct Byte. Thankfully, I’ve got a chance to do it this year; and while nearly everything you see here will have some kind of software available for it from Soft32, I’m going to cover the hot categories – tablets, smartphones, computers and accessories.

What you’re going to see are recommendations only. I don’t have everything that I’m going to list, so these aren’t necessarily reviews and shouldn’t be considered as such. However, I will try to cover recommendations from as many major camps within a given category as I can.   For example, I’ll likely recommend a computer from the Windows as well as the Mac camp, a tablet from the Windows, iOS and/or Android camp, etc.

This is going to take a few days to get through, so please come back often to Soft32 Blog for updates to the series. I’m going to do my best to get the series completed as quickly as possible.   Let’s get things started right now with tablets.

Tablets – Lean Back Devices with Lean Forward Capabilities
I’ve been spewing a lot of information and commentary lately about how Lean Back and Lean Forward devices don’t mix and match well in the same device.   I’ve talked to a great many people about this particular point and feel comfortable saying this about combining the two efforts into a single device:

1.    Do you have a desktop or laptop and are adding a tablet to the mix?
From my point of view, this is the most likely use case. Here, it’s likely that you’ve got set work habits that you’re looking to break away from your work machine. A lean back device or tablet is a GREAT way to do that.     You get all the multimedia and gaming goodness without having to mix apples and oranges between work and personal machines.
2.    Is your smartphone your main computing device?
If this is the case, then you’d probably benefit a great deal from moving up to a tablet as your main computing device. You’ll get much the same experience and be able to use the same apps or tools if you stick to the same ecosystem as your smartphone. The multimedia and gaming experience on a tablet will be much better and you’ll still be able to do everything you’ve been doing on your phone – email, social networking, IM and texting, and web surfing.
3.    Are you adding a tablet to your work or recreation gear?
I have found in most cases that when you do this, you’re adding hardware here to fulfill a specific need. In the office, you likely want something that can get you access to the office network so you can check email and access work specific resources during or between meetings.   In my case, I wanted to use a Windows tablet as a digital notepad so I wouldn’t have to lug different or more than one notebook between to and from meetings.   For down time, I wanted to use an iPad to watch movies, TV shows or other video on a commuter train. My needs and use cases were specific. I have found that most business and/or power users use tablets in a similar fashion.

In the end, how you use a tablet – either lean back or lean forward or a combination of both – is totally up to you and the way you work or want to work.   Just be aware of your needs and then make the choice and selection that best fits those needs.

Android
There are so many different types of Android tablets from a number of different vendors, in a number of different form factors, configurations and price points. Regardless of your budget, you’ll likely be able to find something that will satisfy your computing style and needs in the Android camp.

While this is Android’s biggest advantage, it’s also its biggest problem. There’s TOO MUCH choice here, and it can be overwhelming.   My recommendation – if you don’t know what you want, go with a no-name brand and save some money.   This way, you get the tablet experience and get to try it out without investing more than $100 or so.   You can find a number of Android tablets at No More Rack or Rakuten (formerly Buy.com)   in the $100 price range.

If you already have a high end smartphone and there’s a tablet available by the same manufacturer, AND you can afford a matching high end tablet, I’d marry the two.   The important point here is that if you have an Android smartphone, to go with an Android tablet and vice-versa.   The big benefit here is insuring you can use the same software across both devices.

To that end,   if you’re going to go with a high-end tablet, my recommendation would be the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1.   The Galaxy Note line – over the Galaxy Tab line – specializes in hand written notes and OCR. While it works great with any Bluetooth keyboard (as does the Galaxy Tab line), the Galaxy Note 10.1 is specifically designed to take handwritten notes, which for a high school or college student is perfect.   You can still draw, sketch and create on the fly graphics, but you’ll also have the ability to take notes and then convert your handwriting to text later on.

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Like any Android tablet, the Galaxy Note 10.1 will work very well with Google Apps, so you’ll have access to a full blown office suite of apps, provided you have the connectivity you need to get out to the internet. As I said, this tablet works well for students (both under grads and graduates) as well as business types (again, please keep your use habits in mind…) who might want to take this to meetings as a digital notepad.

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