Savings on the Go!!!

As the economy begins its recovery, many of us are looking for ways to save a few bucks.  The other day, while shopping with my daughter at the mall, I saved over $20, just by using the very device that is by my side everywhere I go – my mobile phone. 

Remember the days when you had tons of coupons from mailers, newspapers etc and you forgot them at home?  Now all you need to do is turn on your mobile device, download one or many of the apps below and start searching for coupons, while you’re in the store!  No printing is usually required and many of the sales associates are aware of this common practice, which requires you to simply show the coupon on your phone. 

Here are some of the apps I would recommend (all of which were free in the Android Marketplace – other App Worlds/Stores might charge a fee, but these apps will pay for themselves):

GeoQpons

This app can be used along with your GPS to figure out where you are and what stores are in the vicinity.  If your store doesn’t show up or GPS is off, you can do a search for the store.  If a coupon exist, it will likely be on this application.  The app also has some nice additional features, including a Shopping list, a Wish List, Savings Calculator and Barcode integration to check pricing.

  

Coupons

Similar to GeoQpons, Coupons will also use GPS to figure out your location, if turned on.  Coupons also provides discounts that can be used right from the phone, but also shows discounts that can be obtained via e-mail sign-up.  Coupons main page provides the average gas price in your area, making you want to use the coupons provided, even more…

  

AAA Discounts

 

If you are a AAA member, you can get this app and it will provide all the AAA discounts offered in your area.  I didn’t know this, but apparently, New York and Company offers a discount for AAA members (don’t hold me to it, I am only going by what the app tells me).  You can also put your AAA membership number in the app, so if you need assistance, you can call right from the app and they will know your location.

 

Entertainment App

Do you have one of those Entertainment books and always forget the book when you are out?  Well, the app cannot act as a replacement for coupons in the book (it will tell you that there is a coupon for the store, but direct you to your book), but it can help for coupons that don’t require the book itself.  In addition, if you are in a store and you see there is a coupon, it will at least make you aware and you have the ability to save the offer, so you remember to clip the coupon (I am not sure about you, but I get overwhelmed whenever I start looking through the book itself).  What I have also found helpful, is letting the app find my location, so I can note all the coupons in my area.  I then go and save these under saved offers, so I know to clip, when I go to those retailers.  Membership number can be put right in the app, to validate you are a member.   

 

Foursquare

I reviewed this app awhile back and a lot more has been done to it since that time.  I will not go into a lot of details on the app itself other than to say there are some nice deals that can come out of Foursquare.  For example, I was once the mayor of Sports Authority in my area.  As a result, I received 10% off my purchase, any time I walked into that store!  There is also a coupon for a free Chips and Dip any time you go into a Chilis.  Some might think Foursquare is just a gimmick to check into places and let your friends know where you are, but as I wrote in my review, there are many practical uses – like saving money!!!

While there are probably many other apps out there, these are some of the ones I have found most helpful.  Even if you can save a little along the way, it can make a big difference in the end.  Happy savings!

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Your smartphone battery draining the life out of you?

Did you just buy one of the latest smartphones, only to find it consumes your battery quicker than the next Charlie Sheen story can be published on a major news site? Wondering why such a sophisticated device can run at ancient capacity levels? The problem actually isn’t capacity, the problem is demand for that capacity. Since the devices are becoming much more powerful, they are requiring more power! The recently announced Thunderbolt that will run on Verizon’s 4G network has, as many know, been delayed and the rumor is the device has battery issues. More speed, usually means faster processing, which equates to more required juice.

If you find yourself charging your phone every 4 hrs, and are not willing to upgrade to a larger capacity battery, here are some quick hits that should improve your battery levels:

  • Turn off your location services – this includes Google, Verizon (or whoever your provider is), and GPS. This will impact your instant weather and any cool features that require these services to know your location, but how often do you really use them, and you can always turn them back on when you do.
  • Lower the brightness of your screen and don’t use auto bright. Your display is your worst enemy when it comes to consuming the battery. Keep it at a minimum.
  • Watch out for programs that auto sync or pull information regularly. Getting your tweets every 5 minutes; perhaps your e-mail every 10 minutes? Every time your phone goes out to get this info, it costs you battery power. If you only check this info every hour, have those services only poll every hour. You can usually poll on-demand, so if you happen to check before the next scheduled poll, you have options available to you.
  • Turn off your WiFi – if you aren’t using it, turn it off. Yes, you will have to remember to turn it back on when you are home or wherever you use WiFi, assuming you do, but WiFi “always on” draws a lot of power because the phone is constantly looking for connections. There are also programs out there that will allow you to better manage your WiFi, if you are adamantly against turning it off.
  • Bluetooth – see WiFi above – just insert “Bluetooth”; wherever, you see “WiFi”.

While this is not an all-inclusive list and there are surely other ways to preserve your battery, this should provide a good place to start.

The Future of Mobility

The announcement of the iPad 2 kindled (not the Amazon one) something inside of me this week.  I have provided a few angles on the new iPad, but wanted to close out the week looking at how I view the future of the mobile market. 

Undoubtably, mobile devices have finally taken off and are becoming more mainstream.  What was once seen as a techy item, is being used by professors, business people, mothers, students, and even Grandma and Grandpa Joe. 

The evolution of the smartphone has taken a turn.  What was once a push for smaller is better has turned to a balance between functionality and size.  With the smartphone becoming more functional, allowing users to surf the web and watch movies etc, consumers started seeing the benefit to larger screens.   What we are seeing now is the advent of larger screen smartphones and tablets to satisfy the increased functionality.  A new strike between functionality and convenience.  

So what does the longer term future look like for smartphones and tablets.  Who will be the front-runner, and what will they need to do to stay on top.  Obviously, Apple is seen as the leader at this time, but can Android or even Blackberry catch up?  Keep in mind, when I present these questions, I am writing with regards to the US market.  The addition of the International markets would change everything and add some more players. 

Right now, I see the major US players in the mobile space as:

  • Apple
  • Google – Android
  • Blackberry
  • Microsoft

What do each of these players have to do, in order to stay competitive?  Well, for starters they need to continue to innovate and improve on their products, while keeping their costs down.  This is a given for all of the players above. 

Let’s look at the specifics for each player:

Apple

  • They need to open up.  They are too stuck on a proprietary mindset and this already got them in trouble in the 80s.  Add a USB port to the iPad, allow an SD port, let me see my files and folders and transfer stuff without using iTunes.
  • More product lines – the one reason the Android devices have better specs is because Apple only provides product upgrades once a year.  You want the next best iPhone, it could take 1-2 years.  With the Android, HTC is coming out with one phone, while Motorola is already working on the next best thing.  This keeps the product line fresh. 
  • Realize Google is for real.  I know no one has been able to touch the iPod, but Google has a good chance to make a run at Apple with phones and tablets.  According to Steve Jobs at the iPad 2 unveiling, iPad is 90% of the market today, but keep approaching it from a standpoint that no one can beat you and someone will…especially when it’s Google in the rearview mirror.

Google

  • Push to become more mainstream and less techy.  Nothing wrong with techy people, I could be considered one of them, but a phone branded as “techy” for some is an automatic classification of “scary” for others.   Start marketing campaigns branding your products towards less tech oriented market segments.
  • Improve your security model.  This might be a difficult one since Google’s model relies on openness.  Education might be the best practice here or having a security program pre-installed might help reduce the risk. 
  • Lower your price points of your higher end products.  The Motorola Xoom was deemed the iPad killer.  I must admit, it looks pretty nice, but the price point is too high.  $600+ and I have to sign a contract with Verizon?  Apparently, a cheaper model in the $500 range will be released at Sam’s Club with only Wi-Fi, but when there are cheaper iPad options, who do you think will get the majority of the market?  Android is in the position where it need to impress and get itself out there, not price itself out of the market.  Think of Vizio TVs – they were high quality and in a lot of cases a better product, but the main way they got out there in the market and proved themselves was on price. 

Blackberry

  • Stick with what you are good at and appease your main market.  Blackberry is still alive because of the security and their seamless Enterprise integration.  Businesses that require tight controls, especially government related, will turn to the Blackberry.  For Apple and Android, they are out to appease the average consumer right now with new and innovative things.  Their models aren’t tied around security and in some cases, like I mentioned with the Android,  harbor less security.  For Blackberry, they are seen as lacking in innovation, but sometimes boring means stability and security. 
  • Don’t lose complete sight of innovation. 

Microsoft

I only mention them because I am sure they will make some kind of run in the mobile space, but they have a lot of catching up to do.  So did Apple in the 90s…

What about tablets?  Are they the future or a fad?  I think they can be the future, but they can fizzle out if not marketed properly.  The main way to keep the tablet heartbeat alive is to get it into the workforce; Seamless integration within the Enterprise.   This is key!

I have had my iPad for two weeks now and I love it.  I am also starting to realize everything I do on it, I can do somewhere else and better.  For example, it acts as an e-reader, but so does my Kindle and the books on my bookshelf.  It plays Netflixs, but so does my 65 inch TV.   It acts as a computer, but my netbook definitely is my device of choice when working or writing.  Don’t get me wrong, I love my iPad, but others might come to realize, they don’t really need it. 

If the tablet can get itself into the Enterprise workforce, it can prove that it is more than just a cool gadget.  I think this is achievable and already in the works in many places.  During the iPad 2 announcement, there were many examples of different professions using the iPad.  And now with the camera, the options are even greater.  Remember when we use to watch sci-fi shows with workers communicating with each other via tablets – can you say Facetime on the iPad!  The industry must continue to come up with more practical uses of tablets; otherwise, people are going to realize their smartphone does enough for them on the go.  If I had to bet on tablets continuing to be a future game changer, I would probably take the bet.

The Duel of Fates – iPhone vs. Android

photo above retrieved from http://www.wallpaper4me.com 

 

The iPhone on Verizon was supposed to be an easy choice – right?  I remember getting my first Blackberry and trading in my Palm Treo.  It was sad to give up the Treo, but the Blackberry allowed me to access my corporate e-mail.  Then came the Blackberry Curve – a solid communication device, but lacking in multimedia.  The answer to my multimedia issue was the Blackberry Storm 2 and yes, it was a bad answer.  So I waited and waited, hoping the obvious answer would be released to the Verizon Gods.  I prayed each night that someone would find a mis-print or spelling error in the AT&T exclusive deal with Apple…but it didn’t happen.  I counted down the days for that deal to expire, and waited patiently for Verizon to announce the iPhone would come to their network.  Then something unexpected happened – the Red Eye appeared.  

It was a cold Fall night, while watching primetime TV and surfing my netbook.  It called to me on the television, like it was my guardian angel (or a demented demon – however you want to look at it).  It’s voice was clear, music to my ears…it said…Droooid.   It was at that moment, I knew Google had thrown a wrench in my plans with their Android operating system!  

The Motorola Droid put Android on the map and many more device would follow, including the Droid X and the HTC Incredible.  So what did this mean now for my match made in heaven with the iPhone, if and when it came to Verizon?  Well, for me, it was over.  The Droid was now my phone of choice.  I left my Blackberry, and kicked the iPhone idea to the curb.  It was a triangle love story in the making.  All along I had planned on running off with my wife’s arch rival in High School, who was currently overseas, but instead I cheated on both, and ran off with the new girl in town!

I believe many people are having the same dilemma these days.  No, not with their wives and girlfriends (see some other blogs for that topic…), but when it comes to the their next smartphone.  Is the Android or the iPhone the better phone?  Unfortunately, there is no easy answer.  Which phone is better, depends on what you are looking for in your next smartphone.    So while I cannot offer anything more than an opinion on which I like better for myself, I can try to go over some general difference, I noticed between the iOS and Android operating systems. 

I bring up the operating systems because that is the heart and soul of these devices’ functionality and really the heart of the problem at hand.  I want to strip away the hardware and additional software packs some manufacturers (mainly on the Android phones) include on these devices because this is about Apple vs. Android.  Not HTC Incredible vs. Motorola Droid X.  Figure out you want a Droid first, before you worry about which one.

So enough rambling;  Below I put together a quick list of what I perceive as the main differences between the devices:

Android

  • Plays well with other systems – – less restrictive 
  • Flexible customization and open file access, but can be overwhelming
  • Ability to add more memory in the form of an SD card
  • Fewer Apps, but it seems to have more free apps than Apple
  • Security can be an issue out of the box
  • More choices of hardware across various manufacturers (ie.  Incredible, Droid X, Moto Droid etc.)
  • Cutting edge specs
  • Integrates great with Google products

Apple iOS

  • More restrictive customization and file access – “proprietary” model
  • Simple interface – user-friendly
  • Mature app market, but at a price
  • Tighter security, but not as tight as the Blackberry
  • Less choice (you have the iPhone – yes, different generations, but still one device made by one manufacturer)
  • Maturer Product
  • Integrates well with Mac OS and iTunes
  • I would bet most iPhone users will have a more expensive experience in the end when accounting for the price of the phone and apps

Playing with both operating systems, my first impression with Android was flexibility.  The Android provides a lot of ways you can customize your user experience.  This includes setting up your home screen to categorize your icons, or having items like widgets,  streaming up to the minute information.  The wallpaper selection is also incredible, with the option to have “live” animated wallpaper.  When you plug your Android into a PC, it can automatically be used as a mounted Hard drive, allowing  access to all files.  

The Android Marketplace is growing everyday, with so many choices available to you, but still not nearly as many choices as I found with the Apple App store.  The one bright spot over Apple was there seemed to be more free applications in the Android Marketplace. 

With flexibility, openness and more freebies comes a cost, which is security.  Since Android is open source and less restrictive, there are more opportunities for exploits and hacks.  Just recently, there were a group of applications found in the Android Marketplace that had malicious code within them.  These apps in some cases had over 50,000 downloads at the time!  You would be hard pressed to find something like this in the Apple App store, not that it would be impossible.  

The Android has a distribution model in place that forges competition, which might explain why every new Android phone that comes out has a bit more to offer than the last.  The iPhone is the only Apple phone around at this time.  If you want the next generation device, you need to wait, usually at least a year, for Apple to upgrade.  With Android, companies like HTC, Motorola and LG to name a few are all competing with each other to deliver the next best device.  For some this might be frustrating because you feel outdated quicker, but it provides healthy competition amongst Android providers. 

Working with the Apple iOS device, I found that it was a much easier user experience.  You had your home screens, which you could navigate left and right.  The number of apps you had would dictate the number of screens.  While you could move your app icons around and create folders, there was no option for widgets or shortcuts.  In addition, you could change your wallpaper, but only to static photos. 

Working with files and programs was definitely more restrictive on the iOS.  I could not figure out a way (and there might not be a way) to get to my folders or file system.  In order to look at a word doc, play a song, or view a photo, I had to go through iTunes or open the file using a cloud based solution.  Unlike the Android, the device did not have the option to mount as a hard drive (although I do see there are 3rd party programs that will let you do this).  

Since Apple’s iOS is more restrictive, it has tighter security wrapped around it, but don’t be confused, it is not as tight as the Blackberry. 

While Apple is the only show in town for the iPhone, offering one line of phones, it is a more mature line.  Android has more choices, but many are new lines of phones that come at a risk, with little performance history.  For example, when the Incredible was first released, there were battery issues.  That’s not to say Apple hasn’t had its share of issues – just ask the iPhone 4 users with the mysterious antenna problems.  I believe some are deeming it “Antennagate”.   

Of course either of these products are going to integrate with its other product lines.  For the Android, I found Google Maps and Voice to work seamlessly.  Apple has a lot of apps that integrate well with their Mac Desktop counterpart, although in many cases you have to pay twice for the app (mobile and desktop version). 

In the end, it really depends on your preference and what works best for you.  If you are the techy type and/or you like the freedom to customize your device and are willing to take some steps to better lockdown your phone, you would do well with the Android.  If you are looking for a simpler, user-friendly experience and don’t want to do much customization out of the box, then the iPhone might be for you.  Of course, if you are looking purely for a message/communication device (imagine looking for just that in a smartphone!) that offers top-notch security and don’t care about innovative features, stick with the Blackberry.   

I leave you with some summary words that fit each device:

Android

  • Flexible
  • Expandable
  • Cutting Edge
  • Vulnerable
  • Value

Apple

  • User-Friendly
  • Mature
  • Proprietary
  • Innovative
  • Proven

Below is a comic I caught on some other blogs.  The author of the comic is C-Section Comics.  I thought this was hilarious and wanted to share with everyone else, since it is relevant to the topic at hand.  You can find other works by this author on their website, www.csectioncomics.com.

Apple to Verizon – Another Blue’s Clue?

Apple TV is showing 2 new iPhone models in the firmware.  This is pure speculation, but could one be a CDMA model (Verizon or Sprint)? 

http://www.boygeniusreport.com/2010/09/28/two-new-iphone-model-names-make-cameo-in-appletv-firmware/

iPhone to Verizon – A Blue’s Clue!

If you haven’t heard yet, there are rumors that Apple has ordered “hoards”, yes that is right – “Hoards!!” of CDMA chipsets from Qualcomm. If you read my early posts, you would know that Qualcomm is the company that developed the CDMA network and is what the Verizon network utilizes to provide its mobile services (Sprint does as well, but would they order “Hoards” of chipsets? I think not)

Anyway, in addition to this news, what is not as well known yet (although it’s becoming more wide spread, like the Easter Bunny getting laid off this past April – you didn’t know?) is a statement referenced in a recent AT&T SEC filing. It read:

In addition, offering a number of attractive handsets on an exclusive basis distinguishes us from our competitors. As these exclusivity arrangements end, we expect to continue to offer such handsets (based on historical industry practice), and we believe our service plan offerings will help to retain our customers by providing incentives not to move to a new carrier.

Wait, what did you say AT&T??? As these exclusivity arrangements end… So how many arrangements do you think they have right now? The only one I know of is the one for the iPhone. Yes, we pretty much had an idea it ended this year, but there were rumors it would be extended or was not ending. Now it seems to just about be confirmed that it will end, opening the playing field to other providers.

So when is the iPhone coming to Verizon? As I have been preaching, I would target a date around early January of next year, with an announcement not coming until next year, as to not disrupt the Christmas shopping season. Many might argue pre-holiday season would be ideal, but in this case I think it would only be a bad publicity stunt. Verizon would cause mass demand on their network and on the iPhone itself, plus cannibalize Android sales. The iPad could also suffer, with people like myself waiting to see if it would be coming on the Verizon network and holding off on a current model that is on AT&T (possibly upsetting Apple – I’m sure Verizon doesn’t care much about what AT&T thinks on this topic). Again, just my thoughts, and nothing factual.

The New Blackberry Torch goes to AT&T – Conspiracy in the Making?

Well, the long awaited announcement has come and the Blackberry 6 operating system is right around the corner, which will debut on the new Blackberry Torch. The Torch 9800, will be a touchscreen phone with a sliding keyboard, something not available on any other Blackberry to date. The phone will be available on AT&T’s network.

What I had found interesting, which is now confirmed with today’s news, is the new phone will be on AT&T’s network and not Verizon (at least not at launch). While I am sure some people are shaking their heads, I think I have a theory.

There are 3 major players in the smartphone market today. Blackberry, Android, and Apple’s iPhone. Sorry Palm and Microsoft, but in my opinion, at this time you are not major players.

Blackberry is your best corporate solution at the time of this write up. I say at the time of this write up because technology in the mobile space is changing so quickly that by the time I hit ‘Post’ on this blog, it could all change! Blackberry provides the most secure and best messaging system. It allows corporations to setup Blackberry Enterprise Servers (BES) to connect all the devices, securely to the internal network, and control the level of security. Blackberry is proven, but in many cases, less “sexy” than the other players.

Apple’s iPhone has been around the block a few times now and it is definitely more innovative and better from an application perspective than the Blackberry. Apple has many cool features and definitely appeals to all different end users. Apple has two major issues right now holding it back. Verizon does not have the iPhone. It’s unfortunate because Apple approached Verizon first and was turned down. AT&T capitalized with securing an exclusive deal, but now the AT&T market is saturated and it is time to move on. The iPhone also does not do as well as the Blackberry (yet?) on corporate networks. This takes serious business users out of the picture.

The Android is Google’s mobile operating system, aimed at competing with the other major players in the mobile market. According to multiple reports (one specifically on Bgr.com), while the smartphone market has grown 62% in Q2 of 2010, Android has posted 886% growth. This can likely be contributed to Verizon’s influx of Android based handsets. We have seen the introduction of three very impressive devices – Droid, The Incredible and Droid X, with Droid 2 right around the corner. Since Android is open source and very developer friendly, the Android Marketplace has been very successful in the early stages. Google is also well known for its innovative ideas and as a result, the Android operating system has delivered some really cool features. Like the iPhone though, the Android system does not bode as well on corporate networks. This is not to say Android is not taking strides towards being more corporate network friendly, it’s just Blackberry is still the better choice in the corporate space (in my opinion).

So with AT&T taking on the new and improved Blackberry phone, what can we read into this move? Well, for those who know me well, I like conspiracy theories; it passes the time. What I see here, is a shift in AT&Ts strategy to proactively protect itself in the marketplace. Ask yourself, what is the bread and butter of AT&T today? What really allows AT&T to compete with Verizon? It’s not their customer service or network. It’s not the fact that they are GSM over CDMA – most people who own a smartphone probably couldn’t even tell you the difference. The one thing AT&T has over Verizon is the iPhone and once Verizon also has the iPhone, AT&T could be looking at some troubles ahead.

AT&T’s exclusive contract with Apple has been up since the beginning of this year. My gut tells me that Verizon would have already made a move to get the iPhone; except, that would have cannibalized the up and coming Android phones. Instead, Verizon is taking on as many Android users as they can (probably worked this out with Android vendors to keep them happy), locking them into the Android system (Verizon is offering a deal where you can get an early upgrade to one of the new smartphones, if your contract is set to expire anytime this year). As soon as the year is up and Verizon locks as many users as they can into the Android that is when the announcement will come; iPhone to Verizon. Now the hold-outs will be able to get onto the iPhone and anyone who was on AT&T, just for the iPhone can defect. In addition, anyone locked into the Android, who really wanted an iPhone, will end up paying full price for the iPhone – and people will do this! Some consumers will likely be angry with Verizon, but in the end, Verizon wouldn’t have done anything wrong. In fact, it would have all been a pretty good business move, to keep most parties happy.

So what is my point? What does this have to do with the new Blackberry being on AT&T? Well, while the Android and iPhone are both competing for the innovated user who likes the “toy” factor on their smartphones (toy in a good way), the Blackberry is the one phone meant mainly for the corporate user. If your AT&T, you have had your time with the iPhone and can only now sit and watch to see how your user base reacts to Verizon finally putting it on their network. If you are Blackberry (RIM), you might not be too happy Verizon has a new love called Android. So the new Blackberry going to AT&T seems like a match made in heaven. AT&T starts concentrating on the corporate end user space, allowing Verizon to cannibalize itself between the Android and iPhone systems. In addition, with AT&T being on the GSM network (which can be used virtually anywhere in the world), corporate end users that travel globally make a lot of sense.

Looking towards the future, I see a shift of end users between Verizon and AT&T. Verizon is finally staying on top of new and innovative phones, and gone are the days of waiting 2 years for yesterday’s best smartphone. AT&T on the other hand will continue to compete in the Android and iPhone market, but will shift it’s interest to Blackberry and the corporate end users. While these are all conspiracy theories wrapped around some factual evidence, I throw in the caveat that it might be far from the truth. The only hope is that considering the theories at least passes some time away. : )