Category Archives: Smartphone

Chromecast Setup & First Impressions

I purchased a Google – Chromecast HDMI Streaming Media Player from Best Buy for $35 and received 3 months of Netflix for free. Since I’m already a Netflix customer, they just credited $24 to my account.

I’m impressed by how small and simple everything about this device is…the packaging is attractive, the instructions are simple, and when you consider what its capable of, the Chromecast is tiny.

It’s just a dongle with a small button and micro USB port on the back, an HDMI connector in front and an LED indicator.

Back in the box we have a USB wall charger, an HDMI port extender, a micro USB to USB cable, and some tiny instructions.

Setup is easy. First, plug the Chromecast into an HDMI port on your tv. If the LED indicator doesn’t light up, you’ll need to attach the dongle to a USB port on the tv or an outlet. My tv’s USB port didn’t supply power, so I’m going to use the provided  charger to to plug it into an outlet.

Now that the  Chromecast is receiving power, the LED indicator will light up.

Next, switch your tv to HDMI input…and you should see the setup screen.

To set up the Chromecast, you’ll need a computer with the Chrome browser installed or an android device. We’re using a Nexus 7. Launch the Chrome browser. And you’ll be prompted to launch Google Play. The link will take you to the download page for the Cromecast app. Install the app. I had to give Google my phone number to proceed…

Now open the app and accept the terms.

Select Setup and allow your device to connect to the  Chromecast. Let your device know if you see the code on your tv. Now you can choose a name for your Chromecast.

Then you’ll have to put in your wifi password so the Chromecast can connect to your network.

Once it’s connected, you  can watch a tutorial or just finish setup. You’re still in the Chromecast app, so go back to the home screen and launch Netflix or YouTube.

Even though I couldn’t setup the Chromecast with an iOS device, I can still cast YouTube and Netflix videos from my iPad to the tv …in fact, you can cast from any iOS or Android device that’s logged onto your wifi network…no app is required.

We went my YouTube channel and tried playing one of my old video. When you press the cast icon you’ll be given the option to play the video on your device or on the tv. It just takes a few seconds for the Chromecast to start streaming video…at this point you can do other stuff on your device or just let it go to sleep…the Chrome cast takes care of streaming the video.

When your done casting, tap the icon and send the video back to your device.

Chromecasting works basically the same on both Android and Apple devices. One thing to note is that you’ll have a few more options on an Android device…like access to video playback controls from the drop down notifications menu and from the lock screen. That’ll make multitasking more convenient.

Overall, the Google Chromecast is a great value at $35.


Gadget Decisions

Update: I’ve decided to stick with my iPhone 5 for now, so I’m counting on Apple to design the smartwatch of my dreams…

I have a difficult tech decision to make: Apple or Android.

Rumor is that Samsung will be announcing the Galaxy Note 3 in September.

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I grudgingly sold my 1st gen Galaxy Note when it squirted out of my pocket and cracked the screen. I switched to an iPhone 5 because I like that the compact iPhone fits in my pocket and doesn’t pop out every time I move. However, I’m starting to miss all that you can do with the Note’s screen area and I really miss the S pen. So, I’ve been excited about the prospect of getting a Note 3.

Now Michael Tong from the Apple Byte over at CNet says that his sources are saying that Apple will be launching an iWatch sometime THIS YEAR!

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I have always wanted a good smartwatch – that means useful features and attractive design. I think Apple is most capable of delivering…but…it will be one more device locking me into the iOS ecosystem (I also have an iPad 2).

Decisions, decisions…at least I have some time to weigh my options.


eBay is a Gadget Fanatic’s Friend

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I think the Samsung Galaxy Note series of smartphones are the best phones ever made…for men…who wear cargo pants.

I ordered a Note the day it was released by AT&T and enjoyed using it as my phone/tablet for a year…until it fell out of my tiny little girl pockets onto a concrete floor and cracked the screen. The phone was still fully functional…but now it was UGLY!

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First, I consulted YouTube and watched several videos about screen replacement. I determined that replacing the screen myself was iffy and too expensive to risk it.

Next, I checked out eBay. I figured I could pick up a used Galaxy Note or SII, maybe even an SIII pretty cheap. Maybe not. Used phones were selling for more than $300 and ones with cracked screens…$200+

Finally, I knew what I had to do, what I always do, sell my old gadget on eBay and and get a new gadget. In this case I sold my Galaxy Note for $276 and bought an iPhone 5 for $200.

Now my only problem is deciding what gadget to get with the remaining $76.


Smart Watches!

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I’m a watch person…and I’m the kind of person that thought calculator watches were cool. So imagine my excitement when some of the early smart watches started appearing running Palm OS. Now imagine my disappointment when I saw one strapped to the arm of a grown man.

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An average size 1st grader has a larger wrist than me. But I REALLY wanted a watch with a touch screen interface and access to my calendar and todo list (I have memory issues).

Like many people, when the battery died on my watch a couple years ago I didn’t replace it, I started using my phone to tell time. But like I said, I’m a watch person, and all this talk recently about smart watches has me excited again. And they appear to be getting smaller…

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The previous generation iPod nano was attractive when paired with the right strap…

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…and Sony has a similar smart watch

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…but the clip makes it stand out from the wrist too far. Also worth noting, it’s not compatible with all android phones.

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Cookoo has a nice design, but I’ve seen one on a man’s wrist and it looked bulky.

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The Pebble Watch is the most intriguing prospect I’ve seen recently…

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…and it doesn’t look too bulky, does it?

I haven’t even begun to dig into the features of the various smart watches, so leave a comment if you have any advice about choosing one.


One Week with the Galaxy Note

Note:  I wrote this post on my Galaxy Note a few weeks ago and saved it as a draft, then forgot to publish it until now.

I’ve been using my new AT&T Galaxy Note for just over a week, and in this post I’ll highlight my likes and dislikes.

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If you’ve read many reviews, you’ve probably noticed that people either love or hate the Galaxy Note.  I fall into the LOVE crowd.  The first time I saw the huge, beautiful screen combined with the stylus I knew instantly that I wanted one.  However, I can understand why some people would not be as infatuated with this phone as I am.

Size
First of all, this phone is huge, yet I was pleasantly surprised to find that it did fit into the front pocket of some of my pants.  Now I only wear a fraction of my wardrobe…and it is so worth it!  I’ll just have to make sure that when I’m trying on new clothes, I also have to make sure that the phone fits – no problem.

Data Entry
Typing in portrait mode is uncomfortable for me, but landscape mode is perfect.  I’m typing this post on the Galaxy Note.  The handwriting recognition is nice, but takes practice.  The voice recognition is awesome, but if you have an Android phone, you already knew that.

S Memo
I’ve used this app for short notes in brief meetings and classes, but tomorrow I have a 4 hour meeting.  I’m looking foreward to puting S Memo – especially the voice recorder – to the test.

Calendar
I never found a calendar app on my iPhone that I liked.  I want lots of information visible in the month view and Samsung nailed it. Good job!

Bottom Line
If you’re not sure if you would like this phone, you probably won’t.
If you can’t sleep at night because you’re up reading reviews, then get one, you’ll love it.


My Galaxy Note Should Arrive Tomorrow!

I was 100% satisfied with my iPhone 4 until I saw a Galaxy Note last September.  The BIG display and self storing stylus gave me a serious case of gadget fever.  Then I read that Samsung had no plans to release the Note in the US.  That was it.  No more gadget fever.  I was back to being satisfied with my iPhone 4.  Then in December I got ultrabook fever, so I used money I got for Christmas to by a Toshiba z835 (which I’m using to write this post).  I felt guilty for spending so much money on myself, and I even wrote in a blog that there would be no more gadgets for a while (I think I said a year).

Then c|net had to go and report that AT&T would be offering the Note this week.  Instant GADGET FEVER!  Followed by the disappointing news that my contract wasn’t up until June, followed by a call to AT&T to see what the early termination fees would be, followed by rationalizing that this phone is worth the $100 fee on top of the original $300 price tag, followed by ordering a Galaxy Note on Superbowl Sunday, (followed by not liking the Galaxy Note Superbowl ad).

I have a good family.  They accept (but don’t understand) my fascination with with gadgets.  My husband jokes about me using each new device as a tool to research and shop for my next new gadget.  At each unboxing, my oldest daughter reminds me not to throw away any of the packaging…I’ll be needing it shortly when I sell the device on eBay.  My youngest daughter feels that I have an unhealthy addiction to gadgets (and lattes).  I think addiction is too strong  of a word to describe my feelings for gadgets (I am addicted to lattes).  I think of my researching and buying/selling gadgets as a hobby.

Maybe when I retire from teaching I can get a job at a place like Best Buy.  Then I can get my fill of playing with all the latest and greatest gadgets while at work.

But back to the Galaxy Note.  I should get it sometime tomorrow afternoon.  Then I have a three day weekend to play with it and get it set-up the way I like it…In the meantime, I feel like a kid waiting for Christmas!


Samsung Galaxy S II: First Impressions

The SII has a beautiful screen

My husband has been using a dumb phone for years but was recently drawn back into the fold of smartphone users by the Samsung Galaxy SII.  He had a love at first sight experience a couple of weeks ago at the AT&T store and within days had an SII of his own.  I have an iPhone 4, and I must admit, the extra screen real-estate is nice.

My husband uses the voice input, search and command features a lot.  He likes the convenience of sending text messages by voice.

The faster battery consumption of the smartphone vs. the dumb phone startled my husband at first, but with a little power management, like adjusting the screen settings, he was able to get that issue under control.

My husband encountered a more serious problem after installing some games, an app for our local news, and an rss reader.  He was burning through data like nobody’s business.  He shut down all the apps – still using enormous amounts of data.  He uninstalled all the apps – same problem.  He went to the store where he bought the phone.  At first they said he wasn’t really using that much data, but he showed them that it was showing up on his monthly usage on AT&T’s website.  The manager of the store said that my husband’s basic $15, 200MB/mo. data plan was not intended for a smartphone (this is not true; my daughter and I each have an iPhone 4 with the same data plan and we don’t have any problem staying within our limit).  Next, my husband called AT&T’s tech support.  They agreed that the extreme data usage did not seem normal, but were not able to pinpoint the problem.  Next, he called Samsung’s tech support.  Basically, it was a waste of an hour and a half of his life.  They said that using exorbitant amounts of data while doing nothing was normal!?!?

This morning, my husband reset his phone to it’s factory setting and the problem seems to have been resolved.  He knew when he got an Android phone that he was going to have to watch out for malware.  I guess one of the free games he installed was malicious.  Have you ever had a similar problem?

The bottom line:  My husband loves the Galaxy SII, he just has to be more cautious when choosing apps to install.